Cases of coronavirus have seen a quick escalation in the past couple of weeks. Now WHO has declared COVID-19 as a pandemic as the disease has spread worldwide and affected a large number of individuals. Governments are putting restrictions on travel around the world. While some people have been cancelling flights due to the scare, many airlines have also decided to suspend services, leaving many stranded in stranger lands.
Indian author Janice Pariat recently posted on Facebook about the situation in Rome. She says she has been stranded in the city with no help from the Indian Embassy there, nor from the officials in India. On March 11, the Indian government announced that travellers from Italy must produce a certificate declaring that they are free of coronavirus. However, the medical team on site say they are unable travellers like Pariat with such a document. Her post said that a medical team is to be flown in from India since the Italian health providers are focussing on those who are showing symptoms. An update suggests that no timeline for the same has been provided.
Pariat had reached out to the Indian Ambassador to Italy, Reenat Sandhu, who in turn had asked her to follow their social media. Embassy services have been suspended due to the outbreak and thus, they have been highly unresponsive, says Pariat in her post.
After China, Italy has seen the largest number of confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID19)—12,462 last reported.
The country has been under lockdown and recently tightened restrictions further with restaurants, hairdressing and beauty salons, and bars shutting down as well.
Recently, the country’s flagship airline Atilia suspended its flights from Milan’s Malpensa airport. Many other flights have been cancelled, leaving tourists stranded.
This is happening all across the world. According to news reports, travellers in Maldives were stuck with no flight, no refund and no help to book another one. People have taken to Twitter to express their frustration about the lack of information such a chaotic situation.
@Alitalia Hi..I have booked tickets for Italy via Alitalia but due to corona virus threat & as per the advisory issued by indian govt for refraining from travel to Italy..I am trying to cancel my ticket & get a refund of my bookings..— Ashish Satija (@AshishSatija1) March 1, 2020
A report by the Hindustan Times quotes a woman from Kerala stranded in Italy: “We are being treated as smugglers. People have commented on the video put up on Facebook asking us why we want to come back to Kerala. Many came to the airport without knowing that a certificate would be required for them to travel. The airport authorities say that India was not ready to receive us”. She also said that a minimum of 200 passengers were stuck at Milan and Rome airports.
A popular international destination for Indian travellers is Vietnam. The Ministry of Health in the country has confirmed 39 cases of the virus. Recently, seven travellers from Vietanam who were on a flight from Europe tested positive for the virus. However, the government has been very active in identifying and quarantining the tourists. Lynn Barreto Miranda, an Indian citizen who had travelled to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, on March 2, 2020, says most things there are still running as they did earlier. “We saw the Bamboo Circus which was still on, but a traditional dance festival across the river was cancelled," he said. "And as far as I have heard, there have not been issues of flight cancellations or travel and the government is very proactive with quarantining measures".
Meanwhile, in India, new cases are being reported from different states every day—the count is at 73 so far. The Indian government has put a ban on all tourist visas to India till April 15, 2020. This decision will come into effect on March 13, and will also include those who hold OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) visas.
Additionally, incoming travellers from China, Italy, Republic of Korea, Spain, Germany and France will be kept in quarantine for a minimum of 14 days. The government has provided tourists travelling in from affected countries a self reporting form to be filled. It suggests restriction of outdoor movement and a helpline to connect to when required.
India is also at the receiving end of this situation, with many countries imposing bans on Indian travellers. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Micronesia have banned travellers from various countries, including India. Flights from Kuwait to India have been cancelled for a week from March 7, 2020.
On March 12, passengers travelling from Calicut to Kuwait were sent back. In UAE, Indian expats are encouraged to avoid non-essential travel.
The Kerala government has moved a resolution asking the union government to take action about Indians who are stranded in airports around the world. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has expressed his concern over the decisions taken by the Centre which have made travelling home difficult. This move comes after many Kerala citizens were stuck in countries such as Italy and South Korea.
Meanwhile, latest reports say that the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has said the ministry's focus is on helping Indians pilgrims left in Iran come back to India. According to the minister, approximately 6,000 citizens have been stranded in Iran, including 1,000 pilgrims from Maharashtra, and Jammu and Kashmir, and also 300 students.