Coronavirus: Many Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh Pilgrims Stranded In Iran Infected, MEA Refuses To Confirm

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SRINAGAR: India’s External Affairs Ministry has refused to confirm the reports that more than 250 Indians stranded in Iran have tested positive for the Coronavirus. If the case may be, the officials say they will stay back and follow the treatment and quarantine.

The first flight carrying the stranded Kashmiri students and other Indian nationals readying for takeoff from Iran on March 15, 2020

“Cannot confirm that over 250 Indians in Iran have tested positive for coronavirus and whether the list that is being circulated is authentic or not,” MEA Additional Secretary Dammu Ravi was quoted saying to newsmen in the Tuesday briefing.

“Of course in a situation like that, you will find some positive cases among the Indian pilgrims given the extensive spread of the virus in Iran,” he said. “Rest assured that every care is being taken by the mission in cooperating and coordinating with the government of Iran for the safety of Indians there. The ambassador is giving a lot of attention to them.”

Ravi was reacting to reports that “a large number of Indian pilgrims in Iran” have tested positive for coronavirus. Third worst affected country in the pandemic, there are more than 6000 Indians’ in Iran including around 1100 pilgrims from Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir and 300 students pursuing various professional courses.

News agency IANS reported it had accessed a video recording of a conversation between Indian embassy officials and the stranded pilgrims who are facing hardships for having run out of money. They are being evicted by the hotels for not being able to pay, the news agency said.

The government has already evacuated 400 Indian nationals from Tehran and Shiraz. It will now fly home the citizens who test negative for the Covid-19. Those evacuated have been flown to Jaisalmer in Rajasthan where they are in 14-days mandatory quarantine.

“They had taken samples from almost all the stranded passengers over the last 10-12 days and now the results have come,” 36-year-old Mohammad Imran, one of the pilgrims stranded in Iran, was quoted by website Scroll.in. “According to Imran, most of the Covid-19 positive patients are above 50 years old. Imran himself has tested negative. The patients belong to a group of 850 pilgrims mostly from Kargil marooned in Iran since February.”

Feroz Khan, chief executive councillor, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Kargil told the website that Delhi has arranged for accommodation to isolate the Covid-19 patients and their treatment will begin in Iran. “The doctors there will be Indian but it will be under the overall control of the Iranian government,” Khan was quoted saying. He also said that those who tested negative will be flown to India in three batches in the following days. “After that, those who are positive might be flown to India in a separate sortie,” he added.

The website quoted the stranded pilgrims saying that the Indian mission in Tehran is indifferent towards them to the extent that they have not been provided even with a mask. The pilgrims, on their own, have segregated the Coronavirus infected members and put them in quarantine.

Srinagar based Kashmir Observer said it is in possession of the list of is in all 254 pilgrims – all from Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, who have tested positive. “The document, which says ‘List Of Pilgrims/Students Tested Positive for COVID-19’, includes the names, passport numbers and PNR numbers (for the flights back to India the travellers were originally booked on) of 254 pilgrims and students in Iran,” it reported. The newspaper website carried the photograph showing the stranded pilgrims protesting outside India’s Tehran embassy.

Iran is emerging as the main virus carrier route to Jammu and Kashmir. Barring one, most of the positive cases in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir have Iran travel history.

On Tuesday, the first soldier from the army was tested positive in Ladakh. Member of the Ladakh Scouts, he had taken the infection from his father who flew from Iran pilgrimage recently. The pilgrim has also tested positive for the infection and is already in quarantine. A resident of Chuchot, he was on leave ever since his father returned from pilgrimage. Health authorities in Leh confirmed that his wife and their child have also tested positive for Covid-19.

The government on Monday announced that the citizens from the UT of Ladah who will be flying out of the arid region would be quarantined for 14 days.

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