NEW DELHI : The government will send rescue flights to Milan and Tehran on Saturday to evacuate hundreds of stranded Indians, civil aviation ministry’s joint secretary Rubina Ali said.

“Tomorrow, we are having one flight from Tehran. This would be Mahan Air and it would land around midnight tomorrow… Then one more will be flying tomorrow around 12 or 1 afternoon. That will be going to Milan to bring back our Indian citizens stranded there and it would land on Sunday morning,” Ali said. The aircraft to Milan will be of Air India. The government has prepared a second Air India aircraft which will be flown to evacuate Indians stranded in Iran.

Both in Iran and Italy, it is evacuating those passengers who have tested negative for the disease. In Iran, the government has collected 1,199 samples that have been brought to India for testing.

While there were around 2,000 stranded citizens in Iran, the Indian embassy and consulates in Italy have received requests to evacuate around 3,000 people, Dammu Ravi, additional secretary and coordinator (Covid-19), ministry of external affairs, said.

In Iran, pilgrims, fishermen and students are among hundreds of Indians seeking evacuation, with around 1,100 Shia pilgrims stranded in the country after India suspended direct flights to and from Iran on 27 February.

The country has around 6,000 Indians, including nearly 300 students, around 1,000 fishermen from Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, and about 1,000 others who are on long-term visas for work or religious studies.

In Italy, people from India are stranded at Milan and Rome, among other cities. The priority for the Indian government is Milan given the significant number of requests received, Ravi said.

“The government has also sent a team of four doctors from the ministry of health to Rome. They have just reached Rome with sufficient material and reagents to collect samples of Indians there for onward testing in India,” health ministry’s joint secretary Lav Agarwal said in a press conference.

The government on Friday evacuated 44 passengers from Tehran using Iran Air, which landed in Mumbai around noon. “All passengers and crew underwent screening by the APHO at the isolation bay and were transferred directly from the aircraft to the Indian Naval facility in Ghatkopar (in Mumbai) to follow the mandatory 14-day quarantine period,” Mumbai International Airport Ltd said in a statement.

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