Coronavirus | Most COVID-19 positive Indians abroad are in the Gulf

Coronavirus | Most COVID-19 positive Indians abroad are in the Gulf

Of the 3,336 infected Indians spread across 53 countries, 2,061 are in Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia

The majority of Indians who tested positive for coronavirus infection abroad are located in the Gulf countries, a source familiar with the figures said on Thursday.

The official maintained that India had sufficient quarantine facilities to house the affected individuals. However, a decision was taken not to evacuate the affected nationals spread across the world because of the highly contagious nature of the novel coronavirus that causes the infection.

“There is no shortage of quarantine facilities in India. In fact, the nature of the virus is such that it spreads very fast. Therefore it is good that they remain where they are to avoid further spreading the virus, both in their host countries as well as in India,” said the source. India evacuated a few batches of citizens from Italy, Iran and China in the initial phase of the pandemic in February and early March, but subsequently has asked the citizens abroad to “stay put” where they are.

The official said that a total of 3,336 Indians spread across 53 countries have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and 25 Indians have died in the consequent COVID-19 infection. Out of the total, around 2,061 are in Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. On the northern coast of the Gulf, Iran also continues to host around 308 affected Indians, mainly in the cities of Qom and Tehran.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been in frequent contact with the Arab leaders of the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council over the last two months as the cases increased among the blue collar Indian expats. The health related issues of the Indian workers in the region had been taken up most recently by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who wrote to Mr. Modi expressing concern about the “well being of Indian diaspora” in the region, especially in Dubai.

The United Arab Emirates has extended an offer to evacuate all affected Indian nationals following required medical tests, though New Delhi is yet to respond to that gesture. Earlier, on April 13, India sent a Rapid Response Team to Kuwait which held interactions with officials there, as the Gulf monarchy emerged as the largest host of Indians affected by the novel coronavirus abroad. The United Arab Emirates is also among the 54 countries where India is supplying the anti-malarial drug HydroxyChloroquine which is being tried in COVID-19 treatment. Apart from the Gulf nations, Singapore with 634 Indians is the other big hot spot. Italy (91), Malaysia (37), Portugal (36), Ghana (29), U.S. (24), Switzerland (15) and France (13) are some of the other countries on the list.

To deal with the emerging situation, the Ministry of External Affairs set up a COVID-19 Control Room in March to serve as the nodal body for dealing with the Indians and their families living abroad. Giving an impression of the extent of the interaction with people who have reached out to the nodal body, the official said that around 18,000 emails have been answered by the COVID-19 Control Room in the last few weeks. That apart, 5,000 phone calls and 2,000 public grievances were also addressed regarding the welfare of Indians who are abroad in the current difficult circumstances.

Meanwhile, India has helped in the repatriation of a large number of citizens of major countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, Russia and the United States among others. The source said that around 35,000 foreign nationals have been repatriated from India till now. On Thursday, 425 Australians left in a chartered flight and 41 Pakistanis returned home through the Wagah-Attari border. The repatriation of foreign nationals is being coordinated by the Ministry of External Affairs and locally based foreign missions.

“These are extraordinary times. Pakistan had specific requests and we provided support for the movement of the citizens of Pakistan,” said the official after 41 Pakistani nationals were sent home through the Attari-Wagah border. The Pakistan High Commission said that they will repatriate around 145 citizens in the coming days.

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