The highest number of Indians who tested positive for coronavirus are in Iran. The ministry of external affairs, in response to a question in Parliament, has stated that 255 Indians have been infected with the virus in Iran. The UAE comes second, with 12 Indians testing positive.
Italy—which has emerged as an epicenter for the virus in Europe—has reported only five cases of Indians being tested positive. Hong Kong, Kuwait, Rwanda and Sri Lanka all have one each case of an Indian testing poitive.
The policy on Indians testing positive abroad is clear: they will have to remain in the host country. Only those who have tested negative will be brought back. “It is noted that it was to the benefit of the host country that they are treated well,’’ said Damu Ravi, additional secretary, MEA, who is the nodal point for coronavirus at the weekly briefing last week. Indians are treating Italian tourists, “very well’’ and they were recovering, he added.
The government has set up testing centres in Iran and Italy. Samples are being sent back to India to be tested. India is ensuring that its citizens left in Iran are being taken care off. The Indian ambassador is taking a special interest in the cases. The safety of Indians were “priority'' , senior officers of the MEA have emphasised.
Over the last few weeks, India has brought back four batches of Indians stranded in Iran with which India has a strong people to people connect. On Wednesday morning a Mahan Air flight brought 205 Indians back. An important pilgrimage destination for Shias, many of those stranded in Iran are from Kargil.
While the virtual deadlock in Italy has helped stabilise the numbers to an extent—there are 31,506 cases in the country with 2,503 deaths—in Iran, the virus has spread like wild fire. On March 17, Iran reported 129 fatalities, the highest number of deaths in a day since the coronavirus spread. Estimates claim that the country has lost 850 people so far. With business as usual, and self isolation not a norm, it is not surprising that Iran has the highest number of Indians affected by the disease.
The economy is reeling under the pressure of the US sanctions. Iran Foreign Affairs Minister Javad Zarif has taken to Twitter to protest declaring them “unlawful''. “Unlawful US sanctions drained Iran's economic resources, impairing ability to fight #COVID-19. They literally kill innocents It is immoral to observe them: doing so has never saved anyone from future US wrath. Join the growing global campaign to disregard US sanctions on Iran,'' he tweeted. He has also written a letter to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on March 12. “While the virus ravages our cities and towns, our population—unlike those of other countries affected—suffer under the most severe and indiscriminate campaign of economic terrorism in history,'' the letter read.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has also written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, highlighting the sanctions. “This virus knows no boundary and claims victims without political, religious, ethnic, and racial considerations," he wrote.
Iran will certainly be hoping that India will make its voice heard especially in the United States. For its part, India has chosen to go all out to be a good neighbour. Requests for medical supplies have come from Iran, Maldives and Iran. And India is processing them.