URGING PEOPLE to “say no to panic”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said “non-essential travel” and large gatherings should be avoided to “break the chain of spread” of coronavirus. He said no central minister would travel abroad for now.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) also advised Indians to “stay put wherever they are”, and travel only “under compelling reasons”.
Meanwhile, India has removed Japan from its travel advisory list. The list now includes China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, France, Spain and Germany.
“Say no to panic, say yes to precautions. No minister of the central government will travel abroad in the upcoming days. I urge our countrymen to also avoid non-essential travel. We can break the chain of spread and ensure safety of all by avoiding large gatherings,” Modi tweeted.
“The government is fully vigilant about the situation due to COVID-19 novel coronavirus. Across ministries & states, multiple steps have been proactively taken to ensure safety of all. These steps are wide-ranging, from suspension of visas to augmenting healthcare capacities,” he said. (Click here to follow our full coverage of COVID-19)
Modi also discussed the COVID outbreak in phone conversations with British PM Boris Johnson and Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu. The MEA said the government’s focus was on containing and controlling the outbreak. “The government’s immediate concern is to contain and control coronavirus. There is no need to panic. We advise Indians to stay put wherever they are and only travel under compelling reasons,” Dammu Ravi, Additional Secretary, MEA and Coordinator (COVID-19), said at a press conference.
The MEA’s official spokesperson, Raveesh Kumar, said the Indian ambassadors would decide if the reason was “compelling”. While a medical emergency is considered “compelling”, the envoys will assess on a “case by case” basis, said sources.
A day after India decided to suspend all visas, barring certain categories, till April 15, Ravi said: “We have not issued any guidelines to airlines to stop or reduce flights. It’s a commercial decision, we leave it to them to decide.”
Officials said that with the government exempting “project visas”, projects like the Japanese bullet train would not suffer.
“The number of people coming to India dropped by 40 per cent in the last 20 days, the number will come down further,” said Anil Malik, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs. According to him, 63,200 people came on February 20, and the number dropped to 43,900 on March 10.
Responding to questions on sporting events, Ravi said: “(We) think it is for the organisers to decide whether to go ahead with it or not. Our advice would be to not do it at this time, but if they want to go ahead, it is their decision.” The MEA spokesperson said the government had received requests from “Bhutan, Iran, the Maldives, Italy for assistance with masks and protective gears. We are processing it. Earlier, such request was received from China, and a package was sent”.
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