An Indian novelist said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that she was stranded in Rome with little help forthcoming from the Indian embassy amid the coronavirus pandemic. Janice Pariat, who wanted to return to India, said the Indian embassy in Rome has suspended functions due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Italy is the second-worst-hit country after China. As many as 631 people have died in Italy, including 68 over the past day. The total number of cases in the country has gone up to over 10,000.

“News from home tells us that a medical team is meant to fly out from India to conduct the tests as Italy’s overstretched health providers are only testing people who are showing symptoms,” Pariat said. “When will this happen? And what will follow? Who knows. When I requested the Indian ambassador for some clarity, she requested me to ‘follow their social media accounts’.”

The novelist said earlier in the day that Indians stuck at Rome’s Fiumicino airport have been unable to board the Alitalia flight to New Delhi this afternoon, because the Indian embassy has issued a directive that they need documents showing they are not infected by coronavirus in order to travel. “ Doctors here are saying that they are unable to provide that certificate,” she added. “We need to contact someone at the health ministry in New Delhi, India, so they can do the needful as soon as possible. Our flight leaves in an hour. Help.”

The Indian government had issued the directive on March 5, for Indians in Italy and South Korea.

Pariat said she has been trying to get the numbers of Indian embassy officials since Tuesday. “They’re meant to be our port of call and contact!” she said. “I understand they might not have information for us – but at least some reassurance?” Pariat said she procured information about the visit of the medical team not from the embassy but from her journalist friends in India.

She added that the Indian embassy has not provided help with food or accommodation. She said that while she got back into her Airbnb apartment, many others may not have been not so lucky.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had written to the Centre on Wednesday morning. Vijayan had said that many Indians are stranded in Italy due to the directive asking for a certificate.