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NEW DELHI : India is looking to bring back more than 270 of its nationals from Iran by special flights this week as part of efforts to evacuate some 500 pilgrims and students from the country seen as one of the hotspots for the Coronavirus outbreak, two people familiar with the developments said.

The group is to be brought back by a special flight operated by Iran’s Mahan Air. The group has been tested for SARS-CoV2 virus that causes Covid-19 and found negative, one of the people cited above said. The flight is expected to arrive in New Delhi in the early hours of Wednesday. Mahan Air is likely to operate another special flight on at the end of this week to bring back more Indians in Iran, the person cited above said.

India has already evacuated about close to 600 of its nationals from Iran, in different flights including one operated by the Indian Air Force. Earlier this month, Minister of state for foriegn affairs V. Muraleedharan said 255 Indians had tested positive for Covid-19 In Iran. One of the people who tested positive died subsequently while the others are being taken care of at a special wellness centre set up by the Indian embassy in the city of Qom.

The Indian embassy in Tehran has deployed its officials at several locations to help the stranded Indians, a majority of them Shia pilgrims from Ladakh and Kashmir. There were some 6,000 Indians in Iran at the time of the Covid-19 outbreak that has caused more than 21,000 infections and more than 1,600 deaths in the country.

Worldwide, Covid-19 has caused almost 400,000 infections and more than 17,000 deaths according to a live tracker of the disease run by the US based Johns Hopkins University.

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