Indian Ambassador to the UAE Pavan Kapoor Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: India is trying to protect the health of its overseas citizens and their families by not evacuating them during the lockdown, Indian Ambassador to the UAE Pavan Kapoor told Gulf News, on Saturday. 

"At this stage, we feel that it is best for them (Indians wishing to return home) to stay where they are [since] there is a complete lockdown in India,” he said in an exclusive interview over phone.

“It is totally wrong to say that we are abandoning our citizens. Once the lockdown in India is lifted, we will certainly help them get back to their home towns and their families,” he said.

He said the Indian government cannot take the risk of evacuating a large number of people from foreign countries while it is concentrating on breaking the chain of infection inside the country.

“The fact is that we have got a huge number of citizens back home and right now the government is focusing on them to make sure that we are not causing further harm or danger to people who are there or people who are abroad. That is why we are following the advice of asking everybody to stay put where they are.”

“We also have full faith in the UAE government and the authorities in how they are handling every one of the residents of this country and not just their own citizens.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday indicated the possibility of extension of the lockdown for two more weeks as requested by state chief ministers during a situation-analysis video-conferencing session.

Awaiting instructions

The envoy said the Indian missions in the UAE are awaiting instructions from their government on when the travel restrictions can be lifted.

“Once we open it [passenger flight service], it [repatriation] has to be done in a phased manner. At this stage we can’t even think of opening it,” he said.

Kapoor said he has enlightened the community associations through a video-conference session that expats running back to their home is not the ideal solution at the moment.

“At the end of the day, even if a test comes out negative, the person can get tested positive after reaching there. By not allowing to go right now, we are trying to protect you and your families,” he explained.

“We are all in it together and we need to support the land we call our second home also,” he said, pointing out that the Indian missions have offered all possible support to the UAE authorities.

Supporting local authorities

Emphasising on the efforts by the UAE government to create more facilities for containing the spread of COVID-19, he said Indian missions are working with the local authorities to ensure the safety of Indians and have also proposed to help the local authorities to set up quarantine/isolation facilities with support from the community.

“If you look at the proportion of the population, it is still under control. We appreciate that the UAE government is making efforts to have more facilities for all communities not just Indians.”

He said the missions have urged Indian business and education groups to support them, by giving buildings for making quarantine facilities if required by the UAE authorities.

“If they [local authorities] would like it and feel the need for it, we can do it with their permission.”

“The community can contribute in their own ways. We want them to participate and help in whatever way they can, work with health authorities take adequate precautions when they do so.”

He said India is also ready to provide medicines to the UAE if required.

No case in labour camps

The ambassador confirmed that there has been not a single case of COVID-19 detected among Indian workers living in labour accommodation complexes so far.

“We have checked in different camps and we have not been told of any case in labour camps so far,” he said.

Kapoor said the Indian Embassy has started providing psychological counselling to community members, who have tested positive or are living with those who have.

It is being done through a panel of doctors provided for the voluntary service by Indian healthcare groups. If needed, the service will be extended to other emirates, Kapoor said.

“We are also providing provisions to many workers who are in need of support due to various issues,” he added.