New Delhi: India on Monday night sent a military transport aircraft with a specialist medical team on board to coronavirus-hit Iran to bring back Indians stranded there. According to the Indian Air Force, its C-17 Globemaster military aircraft left for Iran from the Hindon airbase at 8.30 pm.
"An IAF C-17 ‘Globemaster’ aircraft got airborne today at 2030 hrs from Hindon airbase to airlift Indian citizens from Iran. The aircraft has a specialist medical team onboard. Indian citizens will be flown to Hindan where medical facilities including quarantine have been set up," the IAF tweeted.
The C-17 aircraft "will return to India tomorrow early in the morning. IAF is ensuring the required operational and medical measures are in place for an expeditious and safe return of Indian citizens from Iran", it said in another tweet.
About 2,000 Indians are living in Iran, a country that has witnessed increasing numbers of coronavirus cases in the last few days. According to latest reports, 237 people have died of the coronavirus infection in Iran while the number of positive cases stands at around 7,000.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Monday made a surprise visit to Kashmir and met parents of students stranded in coronavirus-hit Iran as well as tourism industry representatives, assuring both groups that the government was seized of their problems and all would be well. Jaishankar, whose visit was kept under a veil of secrecy, drove straight from the airport to the Kashmir International Convention complex, where around 100 parents of students stranded in Iran had gathered.
It is the second such evacuation by the C-17 Globemaster in the last two weeks. On February 27, 76 Indians and 36 foreign nationals were brought back from the Chinese city of Wuhan by the aircraft of the Indian Air Force. The aircraft had also taken a consignment of medical supplies to China to help it deal with the crisis.
India has so far reported 43 coronavirus cases. According to reports, the number of cases of novel coronavirus worldwide has crossed 1,10,000 in 100 countries and territories with more than 3,800 dead.
Jaishankar met here the parents and families of students stranded in Iran. “I assured them [the students] that our embassy in Iran is monitoring their welfare. We are committed to facilitating their early return to India,” he said. Over 500 J&K residents, especially students, are believed trapped in Iran after India decided to stop flights to the country following the outbreak. Scores of students have been uploading SOS calls online since then.
He also met the representatives of the bodies associated with hotels, tours, travels and houseboat owners. “I heard a clear message from them that they are ready for the forthcoming tourist season. I promised them that the government would strongly support tourism promotion efforts, domestically and internationally,” he said.
A three-year-old child in Kerala who returned from Italy with its parents over the weekend is among India's four new coronavirus patients, taking the total number of cases in the country to 43, Health Ministry officials said on Monday. Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Jammu reported one case each, officials said. The ministry in a statement also clarified that the patient from Murshidabad, West Bengal, who died on Sunday had tested negative for the infection and "hence so far no death has been reported due to the disease in the country".
With Delhi recording its fourth coronavirus case, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan chaired a meeting with Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and senior officials.
"We are sending detailed guidelines to all states on ways to contain the coronavirus. We have asked states to strengthen laboratories and manpower to effectively deal with the coronavirus and form early rapid action teams," Vardhan told reporters.
A total of 8,74,708 international passengers from 8,255 flights have been screened at airports till now with 1,921 passengers identified as symptomatic, the ministry said. Of these, 177 have been hospitalised, 33,599 passengers are under observation and 21,867 passengers have completed their observation period.
Of the 3,003 samples tested for COVID-19, 43 were positive and 2,694 samples returned negative results. The results of the other tests are awaited.
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