BH CORRESPONDENT, New Delhi: Several students from India are stuck in airports of Rome and Milan in coronavirus-hit Italy as they are unable to produce negative COVID-19 certificate mandated by Indian government to enter the country.
Italy is under complete lockdown as the country has reported more than 12,000 confirmed cases and a death toll of 827. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the disease a pandemic.
At least 200 people, mostly students from Italian universities, are stranded in Rome, Milan and Genoa airports.
The students have claimed that it’s impossible to get a clean chit from Italian medical establishment as the whole country is under lockdown. On Tuesday, the Indian government ordered that whoever wants to travel to India from coronavirus affected countries like South Korea and Italy must get medical certificate confirming they have tested negative for the virus.
“I was asked to produce the Covid-19 (negative) certificate in order to fly out. The authorities don’t realise it is impossible to find clinics or doctors as Italy has sounded a red alert for the virus and the entire country is under lockdown. Hospitals are overcrowded and have strictly told us that people without symptoms can’t be tested. We are caught between the devil and deep sea,” one of the students said.
“We also contacted the Indian Embassy about this. They told us to go ahead with self-attestation. We have told the airlines also that we are ready to self-attest and be quarantined separately for whatever time when we go to India. But the airline officials are not letting us board,” another student said.
Meanwhile, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has urged Prime Minister Modi to arrange the evacuation of the stranded Indian students in Italy. In a letter to PM Modi, Vijayan said, “While there is no difference of opinion that enough safeguards should be taken so that the disease does not spread, undue hardship to Indians abroad wanting to come back home in an hour of crisis is unwarranted.”
However, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan assured that the ministry will make arrangement to test their samples. People with negative Covid-19 will be allowed to travel.
Provision for testing primarily for students/compassionate cases in Italy to be made and collection for samples to be organized accordingly. Those tested negative will be allowed to travel and will be quarantined on arrival in India for 14 days.
— Dr Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) March 11, 2020
Union External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday told the Parliament that a team of doctors will be sent to collect samples and conduct tests of the stranded Indian students.