Indian Navy Evacuates Stranded Citizens from Iran

Evacuees board INS Shardul at Bandar Abbas, June 7 (Indian Navy)

Published Jun 8, 2020 10:32 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Indian Navy's effort to repatriate citizens stranded by the COVID-19 shutdown has expanded from the Indian Ocean basin to the Persian Gulf. On Monday, the amphib INS Shardul departed Bandar Abbas, Iran with 233 Indian nationals on board, bound for Porbandar, Gujarat. 

Iranian and Indian authorities pre-sceened the passengers before boarding. While under way, provisions have been made to maintain social distancing with an eye to the possibility of asymptomatic carriers. According to the Indian Navy, the ship is well-prepared and equipped for the evacuation, with extra food stores, medical supplies, and a complement of additional medical staff. Medical equipment specific to dealing with COVID-19 is also on board, the service said. Designated isolation compartments have also been earmarked for contingency purposes. 

While the evacuees were preparing to board, Iran reported its highest coronavirus case numbers yet, with nearly 3,600 new cases on Thursday and an additional 2,900 on Friday. The tally puts Iran within the top ten nations worldwide for new cases in recent days, according to the commonly-used tracking tool published by Worldometers.

India's sealift repatriation and relief operation has been in full swing since May 8. On Saturday, the INS Jalashwa brought back another 700 Indian nationals from the Maldives, delivering them safely to Tuticorin. So far, a total of 2,900 citizens have been brought back home under the program. 

The Indian Navy has also been lending assistance to regional partners. On Saturday, the INS Kesari arrived at Port Victoria in the Seychelles to deliver medical supplies, including treatments for non-COVID conditions like high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and cancer. The Seychelles, an isolated island archipelago in the Indian Ocean, is among a small handful of nations that have eradicated COVID-19.