Coronavirus outbreak is a “matter of concern”: Foreign Minister S Jaishankar in parliament

New Delhi: Coronavirus outbreak is a “matter of concern”, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar told parliament on Thursday as the number of cases of the highly contagious disease across India climbed to 73. “Exceptional situations require exceptional response,” he said, adding that “travel at this time is not recommended as it only heightens risks”. Stepping up measures to curb the spread, the Union health ministry on Thursday said that all existing visas — except diplomatic, official, UN/International organisations, employment and project visas — will be suspended till April 15 as the World Health Organisation declared coronavirus a “pandemic”. More than 4,500 people have been killed, over 1,00,000 people across 100 countries are infected amid the outbreak.
Around 6,000 Indians – including 1,100 pilgrims from Maharashtra and Jammu and Kashmir and 300 students – are stranded in Iran, one of the worst-affected countries in the world by the virus outbreak that originated in China’s Wuhan, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said today. The initial focus is on “bringing back pilgrims, mostly stranded in Qom,” he said.
On Tuesday, first batch of 58 Indians were evacuated from coronavirus-hit Iran. “There are operational constraints in evacuating Indians as Iranian system is stretched,” Foreign Minister S Jaishankar told parliament on Thursday.
Kerala where 17 people have been infected with coronavirus has reported maximum cases in the country, followed by Haryana where 14 Italian tourists are isolated. Maharashtra has reported 11 cases, followed by Delhi (6) and Karnataka (4).
“Discourage public gatherings,” Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan appealed to the lawmakers in Lok Sabha as he urged for co-operation to curb the spread of virus. Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that experts have advised against “mass gatherings to avoid coronavirus spread” in a tweet, adding that he would avoid Holi celebrations.
A government communique that announced the suspension of visas on Thursday said that all incoming travellers, including Indian nationals from nations hit by coronavirus or COVID-19 – China Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany — after February 15, shall be quarantined for a minimum of 14 days.
The coronavirus scare has forced closure of schools and colleges in parts of the country. Delhi has shut its primary schools till March 31. Kashmir and Ladakh has shut its schools and colleges and the Indian Institute of Management has postponed its annual convocation.