The Indian Navy has readied 14 of its warships for carrying out an extensive evacuation operation of Indian citizens who want to return to the country from the Gulf countries for which it has prepared a detailed procedure to prevent any spread of COVID-19 among its personnel during the operation, a top Navy officer said on Saturday.
“We have kept around 14 ships ready. Four in the Western Naval Command, four in Eastern Naval Command, three in South and couple of them in the Andaman and Nicobar Command. So, we have got a number of ships ready to (carry out the evacuation of Indian citizens from Gulf countries),” Navy Vice Chief Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar told ANI in an interview.
He said the final go-ahead for the evacuation plan being coordinated between the Chief of Defence Staff and the Ministry of External Affairs was yet to come but the “the Indian Navy is ready and whenever we are tasked, we are ready to sail.”
India has a plan of sending the Indian Air Force and the Air India aircraft to ferry Indian citizens who want to return from the Gulf countries to India along with the Indian Navy warships, which can carry a large number of passengers in one go.
The Navy has prepared the INS Jalashwa landing platform dock ship along with Magar Class amphibious warships for the evacuation but the final figure of the number of people to be brought out from there is yet to be finalised, Navy officials said.
Asked how the Navy would prevent the spread of COVID-19 onboard its warships during the evacuation process, the Navy Vice Chief said that detailed and strict Standard Operating Procedures are being prepared to ensure that COVID-19 does not spread at that time.
“There are strict standard operating procedures being worked out like what is the kind of screening that needs to be done before a person embarks; what is the kind of isolation that needs to be done onboard whether they are positive or not. The crew would not be allowed to mix up and only the essential crew would be sailing. Since it would only be for evacuation purposes, the whole crew component would not sail and only those who are essential would be sailing,” he said.
Elaborating on other measures to avoid getting infected, Kumar said the warships of the force deployed in the high seas have not touched any foreign port in the last over a couple of months.
“Let me tell you that we have not touched a single port in the areas where we are deployed like the Gulf of Adbe, Strait of Hormuz and other places. In fact, our ship INS Sunayna in the Gulf of Aden has not touched the port for the last 70 days. And by the time she returns at the end of the month, she would not have touched a port and continued sailing for 90 days,” he said.
Kumar said the force has not let the COVID-19 affect its operations in any way as they are deployed at multiple locations in the country’s areas of interest.