Gulf countries cancelling flights to Iran leave Indians in lurch
Around 250 Indian medical students, mainly from Jammu and Kashmir, are stranded in Iran as the Indian government has not yet responded to their plea to return from n-Coronavirus-hit Islamic Republic.
Talking to The Lede, Qurat, a medical student at Tehran University of Medical Sciences (TUMS) in Tehran, the capital city of Iran, which has recorded 26 n-Coronavirus cases, said that she is scared of going outside as the virus is spreading.
“We had booked tickets to fly back home. But the tickets have got cancelled. We and our parents back home are worried a lot. We had emailed a rescue request to the Indian embassy in Tehran. They informed us that they have forwarded it to Indian government in New Delhi. We are waiting to hear a positive response,” Qurat told The Lede over phone.
The head of Iran's Health Ministry's public relations office Kianoush Jahanpour said on Thursday that the Coronavirus death toll mounted to 26 in Iran out of the total figure of 245 people who have been affected by the virus.
Jahanpour said that from the newly identified cases, 38 are in Tehran, 23 in Gilan, seven in Qom, one in Hamedan, eight in Esfahan, seven in Mazandaran, five in Ardebil, three in Alborz, one in Northern Khorasan, two in Kermanshah, three in Lorestan, one in Kordestan, one in Yazd, one in Western Azarbaijan, and two in Eastern Azarbaijan.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation reveals that globally, there are 81,109 confirmed cases and in China the number is 78,191 as of Wednesday. So far, the virus has claimed 2718 lives.
In the last 48 hours, Algeria, Austria, Croatia, and Switzerland has also reported cases of Coronavirus. Unfortunately, for the first time, since the onset of symptoms of the first identified case of Coronavirus on 8 December 2019 there have been more new cases reported from countries outside of China than from within China.
“Parents of all the students are very worried. And they are trying to help us but their attempts are turning futile. They all want us to come back but nothing is happening. Our university is trying hard to get us whatever basic necessities we need like but masks and sanitizers are out of stock,” Qurat said adding that travel to Tehran is limited.
In a press briefing on Monday, the WHO has said that the sudden increase of cases in Italy, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Korea are deeply concerning.
“There is a lot of speculation about whether this increase means that this epidemic has now become a pandemic. We understand why people ask that question. WHO, as you know, has already declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern,” the WHO official said adding that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
“Every country must make its own risk assessment for its own context. WHO is also continuing to do its own risk assessment and is monitoring the evolution of the epidemic around the clock,” the WHO added.
IRNA, the official news agency of Iran, has reported that Islamic Republic has temporarily shut down schools, universities, and other education centres, and cancelled all public gatherings, like concerts and sport events, to help curb the disease.
However, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had said on Wednesday that “no decision has been taken to quarantine an area or a city.”
Meanwhile, Huda Fayaz, a 22-year-old Kashmiri medical student at Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Kish Island, said that the Indian embassy has collected their details but have not heard any positive answer yet.
“We plead with the Indian government to rescue us as soon as possible. We are running out of masks and sanitizers,” Huda told The Lede.
Indians in Iran mainly depend on connecting flights to fly home and following the Coronavirus spread in Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar Iraq and Turkey have suspended flights to Iran.
When this story was filed an Indian had tweeted that “Their rescheduled flight from Tehran to Mumbai via Doha by Qatar Airways (QR 483) dated 28.02.2020 has got cancelled.”
“We are stuck in Iran due to flight cancellations. Seeking for help to come back to India at the earliest,” their tweet read.
The global airline industry body, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), said on Friday that airlines stand to lose USD 29.3 billion of revenue this year due to the effects of the virus.
IATA had predicted that demand for air travel would fall for the first time in more than a decade.
In a note on Tuesday, the Indian embassy in Iran said that “they are closely monitoring the evolving situation in Iran. All Indian nationals should observe advisories issued by Iranian authorities and World Health Organisation (WHO). All Indian nationals are requested to observe necessary hygiene sanitation measures, including, wearing masks and avoid going to crowded places and public gatherings. It is important that you remain calm, maintain caution and not fall prey to rumors.”
The embassy has started an emergency contact mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) for those who wish to enquire further in this regard and has set up a mobile number (+98-9128109115) too.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Indian government has advised Indians to refrain from non-essential travel to Republic of Korea, Iran and Italy.
“People coming from Republic of Korea, Iran and Italy or having such travel history since 10th February 2020 may be quarantined for 14 days on arrival to India,” the advisory read.
The Indian community in Iran comprises of around 4000 Indians. This includes 80-100 families in Tehran and 13-15 families in Zahedan.
There are approximately 2800 Indian nationals in Qom, Esfahan and Mashhad consisting of Indian students undergoing theological studies and their family members.
There are also around 200 Indian nationals working in private companies in Iran.