Coronavirus | 53 Indians stranded in Rome airport as govt. order on testing comes into force

Indian embassy not available for assistance, complain passengers

Updated - March 11, 2020 11:28 pm IST

Published - March 11, 2020 11:26 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Indian tourists waiting at a train station in Venice, Italy, on Tuesday.

Indian tourists waiting at a train station in Venice, Italy, on Tuesday.

At least 53 Indian nationals got stranded in Rome’s Fiumicino International Airport after authorities prevented them from boarding aircraft as they did not have medical certificates of being free of COVID-19 . The government of India had issued a notification on March 6 urging all travellers from South Korea and Italy to get tested at certified laboratories in those countries before arriving in India.

Also read | India suspends all tourist visas till April 15

The notification came into force on midnight of Tuesday prompting airlines to stop those without the certificates. This has caused hardship for the passengers who are claiming that they are not receiving any assistance. Writer Janice Pariat, who is among the stranded Indians in the Rome airport, complained that the embassy of India was not available for assistance to the passengers who were unaware of the notification.

“It has been harrowing. Hours of trying to make calls, being given multiple numbers, and conflicting information, and of course no compensation in sight. The Indian embassy has done little to make us feel safer, a little more reassured. Bureaucracy truly kills humanity,” Ms. Pariat said in a social media message.

Also read | COVID-19 is now a pandemic, says WHO | What is a pandemic?

Ms. Pariat was prevented from boarding the Alitalia flight to India whereas a separate group of Indians was prevented from boarding on Tuesday night. Fijo of Kerala, who has been stranded with 39 passengers in the Rome airport since Tuesday, said they had been assured that a medical team from India would reach Rome to test them but had not received any details. The Italian medical department is stretched to deal with the emergency at home and are testing only those showing symptoms of the virus.

Indian officials have responded by showing the notification aimed at stopping passengers from Italy and South Korea where the cases triggered a public health emergency. Fijo said the Indians in the group consisted mainly of people employed in Rome, Naples and other cities. “We want to return home temporarily in view of the outbreak in Italy.”

Also read: COVID-19 | Interactive map of confirmed coronavirus cases in India | ‘Heat is not a deterrent for transmission’: Your COVID-19 queries answered

Both the passengers in Rome airport told The Hindu that the notification was not known to the larger Indian community and as a result many others of subsequent flights are expected to get stranded inside the airport. “We were 40 on Tuesday but now the number has increased to 53. I expect more Indian passengers will join us as they too are most likely unaware of the notification of testing before arriving in India,” said Fijo.

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