AGENCIES, New Delhi: Hundreds of thousands of Indians stranded abroad because of the coronavirus crisis will be brought back by air and by sea from Thursday in the world’s largest evacuation mission. More than 1,90,000 Indians have requested a flight home. Those taking the special flights will be charged around Rs 50,000 from Europe and Rs 1 lakh from the US. Naval warships will also set out for Indians stuck in West Asia and the Maldives. This is the biggest exercise since national airline Air India flew back 1,70,000 during the first Gulf War.
In the first phase, around 15,000 Indians stranded across the world are expected to be flown back to India in the first week from May 7 following the government’s nod, according to the civil aviation ministry.
The government had on Monday said it will begin repatriating Indians stranded because of the Covid-19 crisis in phases from May 7 using commercial flights and naval warships.
Indian citizens will be evacuated from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the UK, Malaysia, the US, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Singapore, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Oman in 64 scheduled flights in the first week.
Indian missions around the world have been registering citizens who were stranded when Covid-19-related travel restrictions were put in place by India and other countries, and those who want to return because they have lost their jobs or to meet their families.
At least 1,50,000 Indians have registered to return with the Indian missions in the UAE alone, with almost a quarter of them citing job losses as the reason for returning home.
A statement issued by the government on Monday said the “facility would be made available on payment-basis” and “travel would begin in a phased manner from May 7”.
A standard operating protocol (SOP) has been prepared for the repatriation, the government has said. Upon arrival, passengers will have to fill a self-declaration form.
Medical screening of passengers would be done before they board a flight and only asymptomatic passengers would be allowed to travel. During the journey, all these passengers would have to follow the protocols, such as the health norms issued by the ministry of health and the ministry of civil aviation.
On reaching their destination in India, travellers will have to register on the Aarogya Setu app and undergo another medical screening. “After scrutiny, they will be quarantined for 14 days, either in a hospital or in an institutional quarantine on payment basis, by the concerned state government,” the statement by the ministry of external affairs had said on Monday.
India has suspended its domestic and international passenger flights till May 17 and there is no clear indication yet from the government on when they may resume.