The free COVID-19 certificate, which is mandatory for travelers from Italy and South Korea, is now a hurdle for Indian students stranded in Italy. The students said that due to the lack of a suitable testing facility in Italy, they were forced to wait about a week to get the certificate and return to India.
Indian students who have been to Italy have raised concerns about the way the Indian authorities arranged for the certificate.
"We first had to spend two nights at Rome Airport before the authorities arranged a facility for us. Then they told us that our samples would be flown to Pune for testing and the whole process would take about 5-7 days." Vaishnavi Singh, a student of interior design, told IANS.
As the number of coronavirus cases increased in India, the central government made a free COVID-19 certificate mandatory for travelers from Italy and South Korea on March 5.
According to the government's additional travel notice, passengers from Italy and South Korea wishing to enter India must present a certificate that they have tested negative for COVID-19.
The student said the process was even more difficult since no Italian hospital allowed anyone to enter until they had symptoms of a coronavirus, which made testing in Italy impossible.
"You can have your tests done in Italy, and if we want to go for a walk, the police will arrest us. Nobody is allowed to go on the streets unless they have a job," said Vaishnavi Singh.
Vaishnavi Singh is from Bengaluru and had arrived in Italy in the last week of January to do a bachelor's degree in interior design at the Florence Institute of Design International.
Vaishnavi Singh said she had spent two nights at the airport waiting for information or instructions.
"There was no food or water. We relied on vending machines to provide us with food and water for two nights," said Vaishnavi Singh.
Fortunately, an Indian woman living in Italy came to her rescue and around 70 others were stranded at the airport.
The Indian citizen even provided them with food, clothing and some other money so that the students could manage their expenses for a few days.
Vaishnavi Singh's views have been confirmed by most Indian students. Most of them sounded concerned about coming into contact with the virus, as it was a long time before obtaining the No-COVID 19 certificate.
"Our blood samples were taken, but no one told us when we would fly back to our country," said another student, Elisala Stecy.
Elisala Stecy belongs to Andhra Pradesh and has been in Italy since September last year.
The long process, waiting and no communication from the Indian authorities has asked her if she will ever leave the country.
Elisala Stecy is studying for a Masters in Biotechnology at the Universita degli studi di roma tor vergata in Rome.
She currently lives in a PG facility of a Pakistani family and is waiting for an answer from the Indian authorities for the results of her tests.
She had booked her ticket for March 11 from Rome to Delhi. After she reached the airport, the authorities informed her of the need for a free COVID-19 certificate.
This left her stuck at the airport for over 24 hours before returning to her PG accommodation and was told that the Indian authorities would communicate with her and over 100 other Indians stranded at the airport.
Coronavirus-hit Italy reported 368 more coronavirus deaths in a new one-day "record" on Sunday.
The northern region of Lombardy – the worst affected in the country – was responsible for 252 deaths that, according to the BBC, have increased the death toll across the country to over 1,800.
After China, where the disease broke out in the city of Wuhan at the end of last year, Italy is the worst affected country, followed by Iran, which reported 113 more deaths, making a total of 724.