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Stay put, be patient, Modi govt tells Indians stuck abroad, asks NRIs and OCIs to help out




A passenger outside the Mumbai international airport | Representational image | PTI
A passenger outside the Mumbai international airport | Representational image | PTI

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New Delhi: Stay where you are, be patient — this is the Modi government’s message for Indians stranded abroad by the Covid-19 lockdown who have been seeking arrangements to return home.

Moving these people will heighten the risk of spreading Covid-19 in the country where they are as well as in India, a senior official in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said, adding that these “are difficult times”.

Thousands of Indians, including students, are believed to be stranded across different countries, especially the US, the UK, Europe and the Gulf, amid travel restrictions imposed to check the coronavirus pandemic. Many have even taken to social media to seek help.

The matter of their repatriation was taken to court but, hearing the case earlier this week, the Supreme Court agreed that such an initiative was not feasible as of now.

The government had argued in its affidavit to the court that it had evacuated citizens earlier when the Covid-19 situation in India wasn’t as grim.

The senior MEA official said the stranded citizens should contact the Indian missions in the countries concerned.

Official sources said the government had also instructed the NRI community and OCI (overseas citizens of India) cardholders to help the Indians stuck abroad.

“The repatriation of Indian students, who are stuck in the UK and are on short-term visas, will also have to wait. There is a lockdown going on and they will have to wait until there is clarity (on the movement) at a later time,” the MEA official said.

According to government sources, around 3,336 Indians in 53 countries have been diagnosed with Covid-19, while the number of deaths has reached 25.

The Indian government had earlier this month also asked the US government to extend the visas of all citizens stranded in the country.

The UAE government has, meanwhile, offered to assist India in bringing stranded nationals back home.

India, too, has been helping send back foreigners stranded in the country. According to government sources, India has so far helped repatriate 35,000 foreigners from 48 countries.

Also Read: India’s next problem: Convincing frightened workers to return to the cities

Hydroxychloroquine, paracetamol exports to continue

Official sources said India will continue to export hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug that has been touted as a viable treatment for Covid-19 by the likes of US President Donald Trump even as research continues.

Exports of paracetamol, which has also been talked about for its treatment potential, will also continue, the sources added.

The government has given its nod to the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) to export these drugs to 55 countries, including India’s seven fellow members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Out of these 55, the sources said, 21 countries will receive them on a commercial basis while the others will be offered the drugs as a humanitarian grant.

In the initial shipments, the sources said, as many as 13 countries had received hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol from India. The demand for these drugs, the sources added, was growing.

“We have done the stocktaking and assessed the domestic requirement, created a buffer stock and then exported the surplus … This exercise is going on. It is now a well-oiled system,” the aforementioned MEA official said.

India is now in the process of sending shipments of hydroxychloroquine to Germany, and has also approved export of the drug to the UAE.

Shipments have already been sent to the US, Brazil, Spain, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Seychelles, and Mauritius, among other countries, and others.

Also Read: India to export critical drugs like hydroxychloroquine to more than 20 countries for Covid-19

More testing kits to be procured

On Thursday, India received 6.5 lakh Covid-19 testing kits from China — 5.5 lakh of these are rapid antibody testing kits from Wondfo Biotech Co and Zhuhai Livzon Diagnostics Inc, while 1 lakh are RNA extraction kits from MGI Shenzhen.  

“Our embassy in Beijing and our consulate in Guangzhou have played a key role in tying up and expediting these supplies,” said the MEA official. 

“There were particular challenges considering the supply crunch, local regulations requiring registration etc. Special efforts were made with local authorities for customs clearance. The mission also helped get necessary clearances for airlines that transported this cargo as they were operating on non-scheduled flights,” the official added.

Sources said the government will procure more testing kits from South Korea soon, while quotations have been obtained from companies in the UK, Malaysia, France, Canada and the US.

“We have also obtained leads from companies in Germany and Japan,” said the official.

Sources said Indian missions were also “closely coordinating with concerned agencies” for the supply of PPE (personal protective equipment) kits. “A large consignment is expected shortly,” the official said.

This report has been updated with additional information

Also Read: How the humble hydroxychloroquine has become India’s unlikely new global strategic asset


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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’




doctor with a stethoscope
A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay

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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”

Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot

‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.

Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


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