‘We are being treated as smugglers’: Indians stranded in coronavirus-hit Italy

Updated on Mar 11, 2020 03:40 PM IST

In a bid to avoid the spread from coronavirus in the country, the central government has issued a circular barring the return of Indians from virus hotspots unless they produce a certificate that proves they have tested negative.

Passengers wearing protective mask in the wake of novel coronavirus at Guwahati Railway Station.(ANI)
Passengers wearing protective mask in the wake of novel coronavirus at Guwahati Railway Station.(ANI)

The plight of Indians stuck in coronavirus-hit Italy has come to light after Hima, a woman from Kerala, stranded at an airport in the European nation released a video showing their hardships.

“We are being treated as smugglers. People have commented on the video put up on Facebook asking us why we want to come back to Kerala. Many came to the airport without knowing that a certificate would be required for them to travel. The airport authorities say that India was not ready to receive us,” she said in a voice message to media.

The woman said at least 200 Indians were stranded at Milan and Rome airports.

“We are sitting at a corner of the airport in freezing temperatures. It is just like an isolation ward. The central government should give us the certificate to enable us to return,” she said as reported by news agency PTI.

In a bid to avoid the spread of coronavirus in the country, the central government has issued a circular barring the return of Indians from virus hotspots unless they produce a certificate that proves they have tested negative for the virus.

The circular stipulated that people “travelling from or having visited Italy or South Korea” and desirous of entering India “need to obtain certificates of having tested negative for COVID-19” from the designated laboratories authorised by the health authorities of those countries.

India had previously stated that it will now screen passengers from all countries coming to India. Previously, passengers only from 12 ‘high-alert’ countries like China, South Korea, Japan and others were being screened for novel coronavirus.

On Tuesday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention to withdraw a similar circular issued by the Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

Vijayan said the state Assembly would consider moving a resolution in this regard in the ongoing session seeking the intervention of the Centre to bring back the stranded Indians including many Keralites, from abroad.

“How can we say that an Indian citizen cannot come back to India just because he is infected? Barring our citizens from coming to the country is an uncivilised attitude,” Vijayan told the Assembly.

India has reported over 50 positive cases of novel coronavirus. Over 100,000 people have been infected by the virus globally that has claimed more than 3,000 lives across the globe.

Italy has emerged as the super spreader of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in India. Italy has recorded the highest number of deaths outside China. The country has locked down 16 million people in Lombardy and other parts of the north. The Vatican has suspended mass until April 3 because of the emergency.

“The main spread of coronavirus in India is by Italians or by people who have come from Italy, where the virus is virulent. The biggest problem for us is people hiding their travel history to Italy to avoid quarantine and testing. They are hurting themselves and their families. It is very irresponsible behaviour,” said Dr Naresh Trehan, chairman, Medanta —The Medicity, where 14 Italian tourists with Covid-19 have been kept in an isolation ward since March 3.

(With inputs from PTI)

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