Navy Vice Chief Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar on Saturday, May 2 said that the Indian Navy's 14 warships were ready for the evacuation of Indians stranded in Gulf countries amid the coronavirus pandemic. Speaking to news agency ANI, Vice Admiral Kumar said that warships from Western, Eastern, and Southern command will be deployed for the evacuation mission.
"We've kept 14 warships ready for this (evacuation from Gulf). 4 of them in Western Naval Command, 4 in Eastern Command&3 in the Southern Command. We have a number of warships ready (for evacuating Indian citizens from Gulf countries)," ANI quoted Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar as saying.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of Indians are stranded in the Gulf. They had urged the Indian government to arrange their evacuation but due to the lockdown and suspension of air traffic, they could not be brought back.
Initially, the Indian government brought its nationals from China and Iran back but last month, the Centre had told the Delhi High Court that it was not possible to evacuate Indian nationals from Bangladesh or any other coronavirus-affected country due to the "lockdown situation" in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Modi government said that it wanted to minimise the arrivals from countries affected by the coronavirus pandemic due to the risk associated with it.
However, the government relented under pressure from the public and changed its stand on the evacuation of Indians. According to reports, the government has asked Indian Navy and national carrier Air India to be on standby for the mass evacuation.
"Around 10 million Indians are in Gulf countries and many of them are living in port cities, and that is why the government has also asked Indian Navy to give a detailed plan for evacuation through sea routes," the Hindustan Times had quoted a source as saying.
Went out of the way to ensure no spread of coronavirus onboard ships
The Vice-Admiral said that the Navy was following a proper procedure to ensure there is not spread of coronavirus pandemic onboard its ships. He also said that 12 of the 38 Navy personnel who had tested coronavirus positive at INS Angre in Mumbai have recovered from the disease.
"The Eastern and the Western Naval commands have gone out of their way to ensure that there is no spread of this pandemic onboard ships. There is a proper procedure that is followed prior to a ship being deployed. We can't let our guard down.
"At INS Angre in Mumbai, we've had a total of 38 COVID19 positive cases. Of these, 12 have already been discharged from the hospital while 26 are undergoing treatment. There has been no positive case on any of our warships and submarines," the Indian Navy Vice Chief added.