New Delhi/Tehran, March 17 (IANS) The Centre has asked Tehran to grant a sanatorium for the Indian pilgrims who tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Iran, the Middle East country badly hit by the pandemic.
At least 853 people have died and 14,991 others people have been infected by the virus in Iran.
A large number of Indian pilgrims in Iran have also tested positive for coronavirus. India has sent a team of health professionals for their treatment.
There are over 6,000 Indian nationals in various provinces of Iran. Of them, there are about 1,100 pilgrims mainly from the Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir and the state of Maharashtra and nearly 300 students primarily from Jammu and Kashmir.
Around 1,000 fishermen from Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat and others stay in Iran earning their livelihood and for religious studies.
Sources told IANS that though health officials were visiting the Indian patients in their respective lodges in Iran every day, the Indian government was exploring a sanatorium for them.
“But there are some issues with the approvals from the Iran authorities,” an official source said.
The Iranian systems are overstretched due to the grave magnitude of the pandemic.
“This is an unprecedented situation for a sanctions-ridden country,” an official said.
Local sources in Tehran said that although Iran has good healthcare infrastructure, the pandemic is putting a lot of strain on hospitals.
The Iranian government is importing over 170 million masks from abroad and sought $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.
The Shia-dominated Iran is badly hit by the outbreak of the virus which originated in Wuhan, China, because its initial response was apathetic and negligent.
Even as the some of the early patients were found in Qom, the Shia holy place, over 100km southwest of Tehran, the religious pilgrimage remained opened.
Chinese students, pilgrims and businessmen visit Qom regularly. Though China began a lockdown in January, travel between the two countries continued.
On Monday however, authorities shut down its mosques and shrines in Qom and Mashhad.
But orthodox clergy and Shias broke the doors, bypassed the police and stormed the shrines, in complete violation of the government restrictions.
Sources said hundreds who have died from the COVID-19 in Iran are being buried in mass graves.
Iran has temporarily freed 85,000 prisoners from jail “to help the efforts to contain the coronavirus epidemic”, Iranian media reported on Monday.