NEW DELHI, March 9 (IANS): India on Monday sent an IAF C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft to coronavirus-hit Iran to evacuate stranded Indians over there, the Indian Air Force said.
The aircraft took off at around 8 p.m. from Hindon air base, near here.
"An IAF medical team and support staff is onboard the aircraft for the humanitarian assistance mission. The aircraft will return with Indian citizens in the early hours of March 10, 2020," the IAF said in a statement.
It said that it has made all necessary operational and medical arrangements to ensure expeditious and safe return of Indians from Iran.
As it became clear that Iran was also facing a Covid-19 outbreak, the Indian government started to undertake measures to ensure safety and security of its citizens, who include pilgrims, students and fishermen, there.
On March 7, 108 samples were received from Iran. These samples are being tested at the laboratory of AIIMS. Also, six scientists from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) have been stationed in Iran, while equipment and reagents have also been dispatched to enable them to set up a lab.
The Indian government undertook evacuation operations from several countries in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Wuhan city in China's Hubei province had become the epicentre of the Covid-19 and there were hundreds of Indians stuck in the city. India engaged with China to safely evacuate its citizens and citizens of other friendly nations on a priority basis.
Air India operated two special flights for the evacuation efforts in which 654 people, including 647 Indian citizens, were brought back.
The first batch consisting of 324 was evacuated from Wuhan on February 1 and 104 of these were quarantined for monitoring at the ITBP's Chhawla camp and the remaining 220 were housed at an army facility at Manesar.
The second batch of 330 passengers (including seven Maldivian citizens and two Indian Embassy officials who were on the ground to coordinate the evacuation efforts) arrived in India on February 3.
A total 300 of these, including seven Maldivians, were housed at ITBP Chhawla Camp and 30 were shifted to Manesar facility for monitoring.
All of these evacuees were placed in the isolation facilities for 14 days. They were tested twice and were found negative for COVID-19. They were discharged on February 18.
On February 26, the IAF evacuated 112 people from Hubei province. These included 76 Indian citizens, while the others were citizens of Myanmar, Bangladesh, Maldives, China, the US, Madagascar and South Africa. The IAF flight had also carried medical supplies which were given to China as goodwill gesture.
The passengers reached India on February 27 and subsequently were housed at ITBP camp for a period of 14 days as per protocol. They have tested negative for coronavirus in the first test.
Japanese cruise ship, Diamond Princess, carrying 3,700 passengers including several Indians, also faced a Covid-19 outbreak with 705 passengers, including 16 Indians, testing positive. It was quarantined at Japan's Yokahoma port.
On February 27, an Air India flight carried an evacuation operation bringing back 124 passengers, including 5 foreign nationals from Sri Lanka, Nepal, South Africa and Peru.
The evacuees are housed at army facility in Manesar. They have tested negative in the first test.
So far, the Indian government has evacuated 890 passengers from Covid-19 affected countries.
Out of these, 842 were Indian citizens and 48 belonged to various countries including the Maldives, Myanmar, Bangladesh, the US, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, South Africa and Peru.