External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Friday that the second batch of 44 Indian pilgrims has been brought back from coronavirus-hit Iran aboard an Iran Air plane. The first group of 58 pilgrims had landed in India on Tuesday.
Jaishankar, in a tweet, lauded medical teams for the evacuation and thanked Iranian authorities for their cooperation. He added that the mission to rescue more stranded pilgrims will continue. “Second batch of 44 pilgrims has arrived from Iran,” he said. “@India_in_Iran and our medical team – keep up the good work. Appreciate the support of Iranian authorities and their airlines.”
The pilgrims landed in Mumbai at 12.08 pm and will be taken to Jaisalmer in Rajasthan where they will be quarantined at an army facility, PTI reported.
Addressing the Lok Sabha on the coronavirus on Thursday, Jaishankar had said the government was making all efforts to ensure the well-being of Indians stranded in Iran. “We are reaching out to our nationals and ensuring that they are in good health,” he had said. “Our endeavour is to facilitate the early return of students. We are in touch with the government there to provide treatment facilities to those tested positive for the virus.”
Jaishankar had informed the House that there are about 6,000 Indians in Iran, including 1,100 pilgrims from Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir and Maharashtra. There are also around 300 Indian students and nearly 1,000 fishermen from Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Gujarat.
On Thursday, a defence spokesperson had said around 120 Indians would be brought to Jaisalmer in Rajasthan and quarantined at an Army facility there. “They will be quarantined at an Indian Army facility created under the aegis of Southern Command,” Defence Spokesperson Colonel Sombit Ghosh had said. “The patients will be transferred from the airport post their initial screening to the quarantine facility under escort of civil administration.”
Coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, has spread to 100 countries, infecting 1.27 lakh people and killing 4,717. The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the outbreak a pandemic.
Iran, the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic in West Asia, has reported more than 10,000 cases and 429 deaths. Satellite images from Iran’s Qom city showed mass graves, signaling that the outbreak in the country may be more serious than authorities are admitting.