Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Repatriation of Indian pilgrims, students in Qom ongoing

Tehran: Thousands of travelers have been stranded throughout the world unable to return back to their country of origin due to flight cancellations and border restrictions amid Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This is the story of more than 1,200 Indian pilgrims and seminary students stranded in the holy city of Qom during the Nowruz holidays.

“There are over 6,000 Indian nationals in various provinces of Iran. These include about 1,100 pilgrims mainly from the Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir and the State of Maharashtra; nearly 300 students primarily from the UT of Jammu and Kashmir; about 1000 fishermen, including from Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat,” Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said early March.

“Given a large number of Indians in Iran, it was natural that we should seek to sequence their return, taking into account their location and exposure. The initial focus is on visiting pilgrims. Many of them are in Qom, where Coronavirus incidence has been strong. The nature of their residency also increases the risks of exposure”, added Jaishankar.

Iran was among the worst impacted countries in the world in terms of the COVID-19 outbreak. Since the first two cases were announced on February 19 in Qom, the number has swelled countrywide. Hence the return of these pilgrims and students became a priority for the Indian High Commission and Iranian officials.

Before the arrangement for the departure of some 1,200 pilgrims and students, they had to be tested for COVIC-19 infection. For this purpose, a six-member medical team was dispatched to Iran by the Indian Council of Medical Research on March 5, to run a medical lab and test the stranded Indian citizens for infection. A wellness center was established where the medical team conducted tests on the Indian citizens and at least 255 had tested positive for COVID-19.
07/04/20 Salman Parviz/Tehran Times
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