March 1, 2020 2:32 pm

Iran Urges India for 'Immediate Action' to Transfer Stranded Nationals

A policeman and pedestrians wear masks to help guard against the Coronavirus, in downtown Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. | Photo Credit: AP

NEW DELHI - The day after India banned all Iranian flights due to novel coronavirus, the Iranian government urged New Delhi to take immediate action for transfer of stranded passengers of both countries.

In a note verbale, the Embassy of Iran in New Delhi urged Govt of India to "take immediate action for transfer of passengers of both countries who have been affected as result of existing limits on travel", while also informing New Delhi of its full preparedness to carry out "needful medical examination" for screening of the virus at all points of exit from Iran.

India had on Thursday temporarily suspended all flights from Iran as the country struggles to control the spread of novel coronavirus. The virus as of Saturday has killed 43 in Iran and infected 593 people. Iran has so far fourth largest number of cases after China, South Korea and Japan.

Hundreds of students from India studying at various Iranian universities are stranded in the country as their annual holidays have already started, this year ahead of schedule due to virus fears, but sudden cancellation of flights to and from India has put them in a quandary.

Around 300 students from Kashmir alone had already booked their tickets for home in Mahan Airlines up to Delhi and Mumbai bound flights of Iran Air when the flight operations to India were halted, reports said.

Currently, two Iranian carriers — Iran Air and Mahan Air — operate flights to Mumbai and Delhi, respectively, while no Indian airline flies to Iran, reports said.

The Iranian embassy in New Delhi also said that Indian nationals travelling via air can get themselves screened for the virus at the Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran or at screening centres setup at exit points via land.

"Iran expects from Indian authorities to provide the same facility for Iranian nationals at the time of departure from India and take immediate action for transfer of those passengers of both countries who have been affected as a result of existing limits on travel," it said.

India's Ambassador to Iran, Gaddam Dharmendra said on Saturday that the authorities are working to facilitate the return of those Indians who wish to go back to New Delhi."In view of coronavirus, working to facilitate the return of those Indians wishing to go back home. Discussions are underway with concerned authorities to work out arrangements," the ambassador said.

Foreign Minister S Jaisankar was also quoted as saying that the Indian government was working with Iranian authorities to set up a screening process for the Indians who were stranded due to the coronavirus scare to safely return home.

Iran is preparing for the possibility of “tens of thousands” of people getting tested for the new coronavirus as the number of confirmed cases spiked again Saturday, an official said, underscoring the fear both at home and abroad over the outbreak in the Islamic Republic.

Tehran has ordered the early shutting of schools and universities and a ban on concerts and sports events for a week. Authorities have also banned visits to hospitals and nursing homes.

Several high-ranking officials, including a vice president, the deputy health minister and five lawmakers, have tested positive for the virus as the outbreak forced Iran government to impose internal travel bans.

The virus has infected more than 85,000 and caused more than 2,900 deaths since emerging in China.

(With inputs from agencies)



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