Members of firefighters wear protective face masks, amid fear of coronavirus disease as they disinfect the streets in Tehran, Iran. Photograph:( Reuters )
Over 600 Indian nationals, including students, pilgrims and others, have been assisted and returned home
As India is preparing to retrieve 400 of its citizens from Iran in the coming days, diplomats at the Indian Mission in Iran are leaving no stone unturned to help stranded Indians. From Tehran to Qom city, Indian diplomats are reaching out to many Indians - from students to pilgrims stuck in the country in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sources in the Iranian Indian Mission told WION, "These are unusual times and the COVID-19 crisis is unprecedented in its scope and impact. We recognise that this requires that we put in all our efforts."
Adding, "We manage the enormous pressure we are under because we understand the gravity of the situation and we’re fully committed to helping each and every one of our people. All of us in the embassy are in good spirits and we back each other. "
Over 600 Indian nationals, including students, pilgrims and others, have been assisted and returned home. All Indians have been advised to restrict their movement.
The source further said, "Embassy officials worked tirelessly to make this happen. We are planning for the return of more pilgrims especially from Ladakh who are presently in Qom. This is a priority."
Qom is the epicentre of the crisis in the West Asian country. The Indian mission has been able to set up a quarantine centre in the city for the over 250 Indians infected with coronavirus, the largest such number anywhere outside India.
Explaining how Indian diplomats are reaching out to Indians in Qom, the source said, "In general, Mission’s officers are leading from the front and teams are deployed at various locations including the epicentre in Qom. We have in cooperation with the authorities in Qom, set up facilities for our pilgrims since lodges were ordered to close down. Government is bearing all the costs. We have also put in place help lines, advised and counselled people not to panic and to stay calm."
In Qom seminary students are helping Indian officials in rendering assistance to the stranded Indian pilgrims.
Asked about how diplomats are taking protection so that they don't get infected, the source said, "We do take care to adopt proper protection measures, take all precautions and bravely deal with the situation, day and night. Officers have made several visits to Qom, to meet local officials and comfort our citizens. We’ve been at this task without a break for over three weeks now. Our work goes on."
Iran is among the worst impacted countries in the world due to coronavirus outbreak. Since the first two cases were announced on February 19, the number of infected cases has gone up to over 23,000 with over 1800 deaths.
Iranian Government has imposed strict restrictions on public transportation, closed down malls , suspended football games, civil aviation and inter-province travel. Even mosques have been closed and Friday prayers suspended. On Nowruz or the Iranian New Year which was on March 20 and marks an important day for the country, celebrations were muted.