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Transcript of Weekly Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (March 12, 2020)

March 13, 2020

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Friends, Namaskar! Good afternoon and welcome to this Media briefing. Now since there were lots of questions from all of you regarding COVID-19, we thought that we will give a particular focus to the queries which have come to us on this particular aspect.

I have with me the Main Coordinator in Ministry of External Affairs, Shri Dammu Ravi. I also have Additional Secretary (MHA, foreigners) Shri Anil Malik and Col. Adhikari, who is Deputy Director in Bureau of Immigration.

The gentlemen from MHA, they are here to answer any queries related to OCI cards, movement of people, restrictions, etc. What we will do is, we will start with the initial remarks by the Additional. Secretary and there I will open the floor to questions from all of you.

Sir, the floor is yours.

Additional Secretary & Coordinator (COVID-19) : Good afternoon to all of you and thank you for being here. I will not like to be too long in explaining the way what we are doing because most of you are familiar with the progress and the development and the action the Government is taking. So, what I would like to emphasize is yesterday we have had this WHO announcing that it’s a global pandemic. It somewhat indicates our own understanding in the way things are evolving and this disease is spreading around. So, what is of immediate concern is actually to contain and control and of course there is no need to panic. Situation is under control. The Government is attaching highest importance to this issue. There are regular review meetings happening at the Group of Secretaries headed by Cabinet Secretary himself and then the Group of Ministers, which are constantly meeting to review the situation and give direction and guidance. So, yesterday we had two groups of Ministers meeting. The most of the issues were discussed in details and we are also receiving developments from around the world as well as in the country. In which concern is the safety, security of our people. India in that sense, we are very safe, there is nothing to panic but at the same time, we need to be extremely cautious and take safety measures. As my colleague has already been saying that this is a collective endeavor and it should be a collective endeavor as we take the effort to fight this disease and ensure that this disease doesn’t become a major problem for us. So, I have with me here my colleagues, who will be also taking more technical and specific issues. But I leave this at this stage and may be Anil you want to say something.

Additional Secretary (MHA): Well, as the questions come, I will respond.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you Sir, I open the floor to questions.

Question: We have heard, India is planning evacuation. Can you give us a brief about the evacuation plans we have, both from India and Italy?

Additional Secretary & Coordinator (COVID-19): I think, you need to understand that evacuation doesn’t mean that we are trying to bring everybody else. I think this is something which we had to be very clear because we need to understand that people who are not contaminated will be first brought in. But, that’s a process, we have sample testing, medical team would be going there. I think tomorrow a team is likely to go and they will get the samples. Samples have already been coming through various sources, by previous flights. So, these are being tested in India in our laboratories and then those who are negative, cases will be brought in. And so that’s a limited point here as to how we are dealing with evacuations. Then there is a case of Italy. So, we will be doing the same thing. The medical team would go to Italy. In Iran there is already medical team stationed where the samples are coming in on a regular basis and these are being tested and then we take the next measures in terms of how we bring them back. So, that’s a situation which we are going to evolve on a daily basis. How we deal with this. Thank you.

Question: (Questioned in Hindi, approximate translation):

Sir, can I question in Hindi? Sir, the way decision has been taken yesterday regarding airports and visas. All the visas have been cancelled. It has also been said from the MHA side that some advisory will be issued. There is a query that whether the Kartarpur corridor which is in between India and Pakistan and was inaugurated in November will be closed temporarily and whether any decision has been taken in this regard?

Additional Secretary (MHA): It is under process and so we will let you know very soon.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: One must understand that if you have seen the advisory which has been issued by the Bureau of Immigration, in which if you read point No.6, international traffic through land borders will be restricted to designated immigration check post with robust medical screening facilities. Please try to understand that all steps are being taken, you know, in coordination with different Ministries. The idea is to stop the spread of infection, you know take steps to contain it and whatever steps are necessary which has to be taken by the Government, they will be taken.

Question: Since high level officials are meeting on regular basis on this issue. Did you make any assessment that what is the economic cost we are going to pay because of this COVID-19?

Additional Secretary & Coordinator (COVID-19): See, this is true. You must also be very clear, what we are aiming at. Life is more important at this point of time. So, the economic cost, yes, An issue of this magnitude of this expense that you are dealing with. There will be definitely cost. But how much we access I think this is not at this point of time relevant to talk about. There will be cost but that’s something which we have to deal subsequently and we are not foreseeing, envisaging the situation that will be forever, so this will be short term measure. Thank you.

Question: As a corollary to the travel advisory what impact is it going to have on events like, IPL because it involves lot of travel from abroad?

Additional Secretary & Coordinator (COVID-19): So, you know, we are finalizing requests of this nature that sports event that have been held in India and something linked to mega event which is already been planned. So, how do you deal with this? So, I think its for the organizers to decide, as to whether they want to go ahead with it or not. And then I think we will be open to the idea, if they really want to do it, our advice would be not to do it at this time. But if they still want to go ahead, it is their decision.

Question: The advisory yesterday talked about allowing essential travel. What constitutes essential travel? If you could give us may be a checklist or something. Because people are asking whether wedding constitutes as essential travel. Medical emergencies, employment issues. If you could give us a general checklist.

Additional Secretary & Coordinator (COVID-19): Normally you don’t have a defined criterion for that, but I think we will leave it to the Ambassadors and HOMs in the missions to ascertain for them as to what is that essentiality or the compelling reason. So I think the guidelines clearly say if it is a compelling reason, that would be decided by may be the respective missions to say, may be for example health reason, there is a sickness in the family, someone wants to come, or there is a wedding, so that I think, we would like to leave it to the missions to decide, what that constitutes. I think we will leave it in a broad sense.

Question: (Questioned in Hindi, approximate translation):

My question is that the airline operations which are taking place with regards to connectivity with other countries, then there are how many countries where we have closed down our operations? Because different news are coming. Yesterday news came that India has stopped operations to Italy and Iran. Whether there are any particular guidelines for the airlines and in how many countries the operation has been stopped what is the actual situation?

Additional Secretary & Coordinator (COVID-19): I don’t think there is a guideline to stop the airlines from flying in and out. I think it is a decision of the airlines, whether considering the fact that there may be passengers or no passengers. It is their decision. We will leave it to the airlines to decide, how much the frequency of the flight, they would like to have in India.

Question: (Questioned in Hindi, approximate translation):

I want 2-3 clarifications. Firstly, where the testing facilities are being installed in Iran or Italy? As the EAM told today that in Iran it is being done in Tehran but where it is being done in Italy? And as we have told in the advisory that a COVID-negative certificate will be compulsory. But the students in particular are facing problems at a few places, the COVID-negative certificate is not available. What facilities will be made available to them and how the people will be taken to the testing point, what are the plans? Please tell us?

Question: On the same question, the certificates that are required, there is no clarity on which are the countries where the certificates would be required, the earlier travel advisory had mentioned a few countries. The new travel advisory does not mention countries at all. So we want clarity on certificates that are required and in which countries, all affected countries, all Indian nationals?

Additional Secretary & Coordinator (COVID-19): I will take the first question about the testing facilities. These are not static. When a team has gone from India to Iran, for example. So the team will look at, where our people are, so the mission will guide them, they will take them to that place, for example in initial stages Qom and now they are back in Tehran. Perhaps, also we will have to see, where the concentration is and where we can easily take care of the Indians who need to be tested and then we also see about how we can bring these samples back. Same method we have for Italy as well. Rome and Milan are the two areas, where the team is likely to go but I don’t have confirmation exactly how the movement is defined by the mission. So, it will depend on purely by the Ambassador's discretion and his understanding or her understanding of the situation there. In terms of COVID-test negative certificate, initially we were very particular that it should be from two countries, Italy primarily and then Korea but now we are seeing that entire Europe is now becoming somewhat very problematic and so it is very alarming situation, so we have added three more countries and in total about seven.

Now, we expect most of the people to take the COVID test locally to the extent possible and then on their arrival, it would make it easier for us to, for the airport authorities to let them in. So, I think it is difficult to say exactly whether the testing facility is there or not. But we guess that these are developed countries. There should be the testing facility available for people to get tested before they come to India. That’s in the advisory which has been issued yesterday.

Question: (Questioned in Hindi, approximate translation):

Yesterday the Foreign Minister has told that the challenge now is Europe and Italy in particular and European countries other than Italy, Corona is spreading fast in the countries like France and Spain, what action is being taken in this regard?

Additional Secretary & Coordinator (COVID-19): I mean, we hope, we expect that the Government will take adequate measures to contain the virus but my limited point here is about Indians who are there. So, how do we deal with that situation when Indians are there? Again, generally our advice is wherever Indians are it is better to stay put. Because you never know whether you are carrying the symptoms of it because it might become prominent after certain number of days. So it is advisable for wherever or people are to stay put and then only have to travel if there are compelling reason to come to India and we hope that this infection will die down very soon and then there will be able to have normally restored.

Question: Is there any cooperation between the neighboring countries or with the ASEAN countries on this. Are we exchanging information and helping each other in any way?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: You see, we have received requests from some of the countries in the neighborhood, in terms of providing them some assistance. For example, for surgical masks, for protective gear, they are under process. You are aware that initially sometime in the month of February we did send a consignment to China, you know and which brought our nationals back on the return flight. So they are under process. I can tell you that they are in the neighborhood, some of the countries are quite affected by this crisis and we are at this point of time processing such requests. We hope to be of assistance to them. You know I can tell you, that for example we have received request from Bhutan for example. You know, we have received requests from the Maldives, Iran, Italy, China I mentioned. It is already been dispatched. These are under different stages of process.

I have mentioned the countries which are under process. So, these are the four countries which I just mentioned. These are the ones under process. Please try to understand, you know, we can only spare items, which we have at this point of time and accordingly based on the request and based on the availability of such items, packages has been put .

Question: As we speak how many confirmed cases do we have in India and how long do you expect on a positive or optimism level for this to last or the pandemic to settle down?

Additional Secretary & Coordinator (COVID-19): Well the Health Ministry says that’s about 73 at this point of time but I think most of the cases are being very carefully monitored and treated. So, there is also a tracking, they know who they have contacted in the past, so that process is all on. So, there is severity is also being analyzed in terms of how it is fluctuating or how it is growing and then thankfully right now, its been a safe situation.

Question: .......................inaudible…………………….

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: No, we can’t say. I mean these technical questions I think you have to reserve for Ministry of Health. You know we are looking at the external dimension of the crisis and that is what we are trying to address here.

Question: This is for the Health Ministry. I mean what is the rural outreach, I mean what are we doing to prevent?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: We don’t have a representative from the Health Ministry, we have Ministry of Home Affairs.

Question: The OCI cards have been abeyance till the 15th of April. Now, this obviously affects thousands and thousands of people of Indian origin. Now, do you foresee this being stretched further beyond 15th of April?

Additional Secretary (MHA): See, only the travel part of OCI card has been suspended for a limited period of time. OCI card entitles foreigner to several other rights also. So, all OCI card holders, who are in India they did not do anything except stay here as long as they want. So there is no restriction on that. Regarding the further travel of OCI card holder into India after this time which is given in the advisory that is day after tomorrow night etc., they will have to take visa from the nearest mission. The OCI card as a visa will not operate.

Question: Sir, these restrictions are based on the situation prevailing in other countries and not the cases they spread in India. Is this assessment is correct and the future relaxation of these rules will depend on how the virus is spreading abroad or what the WHO guidelines are to be in the future or it also be how India is been able to contain it and if there are no new cases in India, Probably, are they connected, what are the basis of these regulations.

Additional Secretary & Coordinator (COVID-19): Well one cannot speculate as to how we are going to deal with. But I think we are looking at a very pragmatic and practical approach in the way we see these things. See, few days ago, even few weeks ago no body thought that Europe would be so widely and vastly affected by this infection. But today its now whole Europe is actually in a fear psychosis grip. So there is this problem. So, we have to understand this and the world is so much interlinked and interconnected, so we had to take extreme precautions that around the world what’s happening and as well as your own internal situation, we need to constantly monitor and then take adequate measures and timely measures. That’s why if you see this guidelines are being reviewed from time to time to ensure that you know we are able to take that kind of protective measures.

Question: (Questioned in Hindi, approximate translation):

This advisory on the visa restrictions also for Indians? Whether the Indians who will be coming from these countries will also be quarantined? On an average how many Indians are coming to India and whether enough quarantine centers are there near the airports to quarantine these people

Additional Secretary (MHA): (Answered in Hindi, approximate translation)

See, the number of Indians who are coming from abroad is getting reduced continuously and if you see the trend of the last one month you will see that its about 40% reduction already in last 20 days. So, our request is to please avoid non-essential travel. If you are abroad, then you can stay for few more days. Avoid travelling to foreign country from India. If it is non- essential and there are not very compelling circumstances. So, our request is not to spread by touch or being in touch with anybody. You should not get infected and then infect others.

Question: .......................inaudible…………………………

Additional Secretary (MHA): See, we have the figure but I don’t know, it’s a very dynamic figure. Like on 20th February about 63000 Indians came from abroad whereas on 10th March only 43000 came and the number is gradually coming down. We expect after this advisory and after these measures the number would come down further.

Question: ............. inaudible………………

Additional Secretary (MHA): If required we will quarantine. We will have to. There is no other option.

Question: .........................inaudible………………….

Additional Secretary (MHA): This is 10th March, the figure is 43900 and 20th of February 63200. And there is a regular decline.

Additional Secretary & Coordinator (COVID-19): The number of people coming to India is what he has indicated in the statistics that he has shown. But, you must know that not all are quarantined. Not all people coming to India are quarantined. When you see the symptoms, those people will be quarantined and then we have these countries which have been listed out. So, citizens coming in from, the nationals of those countries will come in, we will want them to quarantine. But a lot of them the quarantine facilities have been in hands and then we are looking at that angle also which is the MOD and the Ministry of Home Affairs. So that’s an ongoing process, but at the same time we should not think everyone who is coming is quarantine. So there is no panic on that front.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: What I will do, is I will club 2 to 3 questions together.

Question: I listened to you about the Indian people in Italy but I want to ask you that do you consider that there are any standard Indian people in Italy or as you told before it is up to the ambassador, the consulate and what else…

Question: You mentioned this you know sporting events, you said that you would advise that they not be held but if they want to go ahead, they can. So, if somebody wants to go ahead for commercial considerations despite the grave danger if somebody wants to go ahead for commercial considerations despite the grave danger isn’t the Indian Government going to take any action to ban these gatherings or it’s just only advising and secondly, you mentioned about these Indian nationals you have advised them against non-essential travels but if they insist they are feeling insecure in Europe and they want to return at all costs, so would you be willing to facilitate or what is the procedure?

Additional Secretary & Coordinator (COVID-19): I think there are two questions in there and I will first answer. So, you asked whether Indians are stranded in Italy and how we are dealing with the situation. Isn’t it Ma’am? Is that your question? Yeah, so the reports that we got from a Mission is that a lot of students who have just completed the course and the university has shut down want to come back because they don’t have adequate facility to stay put there. And there is also tourists which have gone and are stranded and want to come back. So, again, our first advice to them is if they can manage to stay put is best. If they are not able to then we look at the way how we can bring them. One is, we are testing them and finding that there are negative cases and we can bring them to India. So, I think we are purely going by how the Ambassadors are advising us to which place to go to visit for the samples. So, that process is on.

On the events, as of date, we will assess the situation on a daily basis but the advisory that we have received yesterday and you have seen this today is very clear that only compelling reasons if anybody wants to come will come. Now it may even include sports events. At this point of time I have no definite answer for your question whether commercial events will be banned or not. But in course of time we will see how things will evolve and how the situation is, then probably we will take it back to the group of secretaries and then the group of Ministers to advise us and give us guidance. Thank you.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I will take the next slot of three questions.

Question: Can you please tell us what are the criteria to put any country on the Covid Negative, the requirement for the COVID Negative list. And another thing is that recently there have been some incident against the foreign nationals or countries which are affected from the COVID-19. So, how are we going to ensure the safety and security of the foreigners who are here travelling and are getting adequate facilities and are not being discriminated?

Question: Can you just share the timeframe for bringing the first batch of citizens from Italy, and do you want to say that all the tests will be conducted in India? And second thing that many passengers have not declared that they have travelled from Italy. One person who has been confirm that, COVID-19 who had reach Delhi and travel from Italy to Vienna and then back to Delhi. But here now declare they are travel to Italy. So, what are the steps taken in the airport to confirm these passengers are not travel to these affective countries? Thank You.

Question: Since the flights should not be operating tomorrow onwards. Are you making any special arrangement to bring back the standard Indians?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: The flights are not operating?

Question: Normally there would be cancelling the flight. So, how will the Indians come back?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: You know there is no advice of cancellation.

Question: No advice but lack of passengers will force them to cancel the flights.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: No. I think it is a commercial decision. I mean there are Indians who are abroad, they have to come back and depending on the load factor, Airlines will decide whether they have to operate or not.

Additional Secretary & Coordinator (COVID-19): Question on what are the parameters to deciding COVID negative certificate. Is that your question? So, I think this is highly technical one in the sense that Ministry of Health looking to the daily spite that seen that country and also you see the way of death and the kind of evolving situation that country and then we take the precautionary measure. But this again is not permanent. Now, you should see in the list that one country has been taken out. Because you see that there have been cases. So, we will assist Japan. So, this is not a permanent place. So, we will try, we will evolve it, as we things more on. The case of Italy, again our first priority is to check the test and see how many cases are negative cases are there. So, there after we will see because the flights travel Italy to India are not cancelled or banned. So, we will be hope that there will be able to flight come to India. Thank you.

Additional Secretary (MHA): See, there can be no discrimination. Nobody discriminates at all. All public health services are available to everybody. Actually especially in case of foreigners they are been specially taken care of, you know and it's been monitor in the highest level. So, I am not sure about who was denied. Is there any instance we will definitely look into. And which law and order, you are talking about? At least I am not aware. Not been reported to us. We will look into it. We will get back to you. Because this is not come to our notice.

Question: (Questioned in Hindi, approximate translation):

The mega event sporting event which we are talking about is IPL and is going to take place in our country. And you also know, there are a lot of congregations, stadiums are full. So, will you give specific opinion regarding this event and will you convey it to the organizers? And certainly you have seen video from Rome international airport of Indian students, who are saying that it is very difficult for them to obtain a COVID negative certificate. So, will you insist that they will have to produce a COVID negative certificate on their return to India.

Additional Secretary & Coordinator (COVID-19): I think the advisory really mentioned which are the countries where the negative COVID negative certificate is required. Okay, that's very clear. We are not insisting that every national of any country who is coming into India would require. So, that, clarity you need to have. The second about IPL, I think still again, it's a commercial decision, then we will have to assess in course of time if that requires special guideline to be issued on that, but again, we are looking at mega events, you know, there is Tokyo Olympics which is going to happen later this year as well. So, all these are the decisions of the organizers and they have to assess for their own sake and for the health of the people around in that country as to what decisions, whether they want to go ahead or not. So, but we will be reviewing it in course of time also.

Question: What happens to multilateral commercial projects like the bullet train and all that might suffer universally?

Question: Short clarification is there a penalty for not reporting travel details and what is the penalty and how, who enforces it?

Question: Going back to the negative certificates, just wanted to know for clarity, negative certificates are required or mandatory from the seven countries, from every other country you say, it is only, it will be convenient if people come with negative certificates. Will the embassies and missions help in that procedure if the students from US, UK and other countries and will Indian nationals be allowed to board aircrafts if they do not have negative certificates from either the mandatory seven countries or the others?

Additional Secretary & Coordinator (COVID-19): We’ll take the first question on the economic projects that are on-going and whether it’s possible for them to continue with the projects. But if you look at the advisory, you know, the project visa is exempted. So, this means that economic projects that are on-going and people that are required to manage these projects will be able to come in. So, there’s no problem on that.

Additional Secretary (MHA): Yeah, penalty like not reporting, you said not reporting. See, his passport is available for the immigration officer to see. He can see which countries he has visited. So, he will be caught there. This is our expectation that because we are scanning it quite closely.

Question: inaudible

Additional Secretary (MHA): Yes that was a little earlier. Yeah, so,

Question: [inaudible]…. onus on the passenger, that’s what I am asking.

Additional Secretary (MHA): There is, because, you know, first of all he is infecting his family itself. You know, so, he has the highest risk, sorry

Question: If he doesn’t care?

Additional Secretary (MHA): No. I mean… then sooner or later he will be found out because if he has symptoms or his family has symptoms, he will be found out. So, he will be confined, he will be quarantined and taken care of.

Question: There are places in hospitals where people are running away so that they are not tested or quarantined.

Deputy Director (Bureau of Immigration): Ma'am on this, there’s no penalty as such. But certainly, now we have started capturing all the details whenever any traveler, foreigner or Indian, arriving at the airport, at the immigration counters, all details of his are being taken, even in India where he will be staying and where he will be going. Now, if a foreigner refuses that we have told our immigration officers that he will be returned and if an Indian refuses that then we will quarantine him.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: No, I think he has answered the question.

Additional Secretary (MHA): There are enough laws as far as public health is concerned.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: No, we will give you clarification. I think he has answered.

Deputy Director (Bureau of Immigration): There are... I said that when he is the person reaches immigration counters. He’s already been checked by the APHO. If you have any symptom, the APHO would have already told and quarantined him. But we are collecting the information now, because if he is not detected by the APHO, the symptom shows after three days or after one week. So, we have to capture his details where he would be going, where he would be staying. So, that the major interest of all of us. So, for that, we want those details. And that's why we want the cooperation in that.

Question: I just want to check what happens to the people if they tested positive, if they... Indians who tested them where they are, but for like example in Italy where they like to live this is the huge problem in terms of… you know shortage of medical stuff, to actually treat peace. Do we... are we sort of… I mean is there some sort of obligation to people who have already tested positive. In the country that they are respectively report.

Question: Indian nationals coming from other countries, not from seven infected. Do they also need to produce the test result? Will it help? What if they don’t? What are the criteria for them? Please clarify.

Question: I want to ask regarding the Indian crew member of the Diamond Princess, they are now under quarantine but it takes nearly fourteen days and when they will be free, as of now is there any person who has turned to be positive.

Additional Secretary & Coordinator (COVID-19): Okay. So, let me take the question on the people who have tested positive. Now, I think this we have to expect that person, which tested person he’s also a risk to that country. So, they will take measures to contain it, to control it and recover the patient. Now we are done in the case of Italian who come to India and tested positive, so government taken absolute care of them. And positive good news is that they are recovering. So, that’s the expectation… the similar thing. If Indians tested anywhere positive, we will expect the back countries going to give full support and help them to recover and they are able to come back to India. That’s the fresh start in this case. So, whether they can take care in flight… I think this is a big risk. They should advise such patients to take. They fly back to India because you’ll from… wherever he might be residing, to the airport, come to the flight, he’ll be contaminating so many people on the way. So, it’s ,how it is, case? They should advise such patience to stay where they are. Now whether they testing, results negative test, Covet, negative test, this is mandatory to this to carry. I will advise would be first all the people should stay put where they are. They can manage to do it. If they are not able to and they have to take a mandatory visit for any compelling reasons, then it is advisable to take a test because then it's easy to let them pass. Although we will be subjecting to symptomatic tests at the airports but these are random, and this is sometimes possible that there are no symptoms but manifesting at a much later day. So it is advisable for them to take this test and come to India for them to be able to move in.

Additional Secretary (MHA): Regarding Diamond Princess we don't have the exact data right now because Health Ministry Officers are not here. But it'll be a standard protocol after fourteen days there will be a test, and if everybody is negative, then obviously they will be released. I mean it's very much you know that’s a standard protocol we are following in every case.

Additional Secretary & Coordinator (COVID-19): So, one clarification, the mandatory COVID test would be in the two countries, i.e. Italy and Korea at this point of time. Korea. So, the others, we will go by the test that they would to sampling measures. So which will come to us and we will be. So in case they bond to still travel, then we'll have to see, you know, since they go to the embassy and look at the reasons why they want to come , that is for the HOM to take a call at that point of time. So, it is highly advisable that they don't travel. But they have to travel and then they will anyway approach commissions to do that. Thank you!

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: No, on the 6th of March, there was an advisory which was issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. If you look at point number four of that advisory, it makes it very clear that COVID 19 negative certificate is required only in cases of people travelling from Italy or Republic of Korea. And it was specified there that if you are in these countries, then you need a certificate before you came in. Now, lot of people mentioned about the difficulties being faced by the Indian students and this is precisely which the External Affairs Minister did at least yesterday in the Parliament. We did recognize that there are problems. And that is why a team, a medical team is on the way. They will be reaching Italy tomorrow morning. Their job is primarily to address the problem being faced by Indian students in getting these certificates. Now the tests will be conducted, the swabs will be brought and all those who are found negative, they will be given those certificates, so that they can board commercial flights and take the flights back to India. There are flights operating between the two countries and we expect with that certificate in place they should be able to take commercial flights back to India.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Maybe I'll take the last round if there is any urgent clarification. You have something?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: No, look, I think if there is any update, look we are not creating advisory sitting here. We are basically following the advisories which are issued almost on a daily basis by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Please understand that there is a group of Ministers who are meeting almost on regular basis. So, I mean this is coordinated at a fairly high level. Prime Minister is personally monitoring the situation. So, when you have inputs coming from different ministries based on that a decision is taken, that decision is reflected in terms of a press release or an advisory which should not be Bureau of Immigration. so, look, we have made it very clear at this point of time that there are challenges of travel open. Now, if that is open, we are trying to facilitate in a way that these students want to come to get their certificates. There are flights operating and the demand is not for the flight, the demand is to facilitate those certificates so that they can board the flight.

Question: So I think MHA can answer my question. Is there any advice for internal travelers in India, any advice, any advisory, any suggestion?

Additional Secretary (MHA): So far no. Yah! so far it is we believe that whatever contingent has come, has come from abroad, people traveling from abroad, you know Indians and foreigners. So, so far for domestic level there is no such ban nor contemplated at that moment.

Question: Just for absolute clarity, if there are two travellers, one traveling from Spain, which is I think one of the seven countries and one traveling from the US how differently will they be treated at the Airport?

Additional Secretary (MHA): After this date, you know, you've read the latest one, the latest advisory? After, lets say, day after tomorrow morning onwards, the fellow from Spain will be quarantined. Yeah! almost certainly. Yes. That is the advisory at the moment and somebody from US will be obviously screened symptomatic and if we are kind of confident then we will let in.

Official Spokesperson Shri. Raveesh Kumar: Thank you very much. We will be putting up regular updates on the situation as and when necessary. I think, if need be we will do this briefing more frequently. You know, and thank you very much for joining.


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