New Delhi: Thousands of Indians stranded abroad because of the coronavirus crisis will be brought back by air and by sea from Thursday in the largest overseas evacuation since independence. Over 14,800 Indians in 13 countries will be brought back by 64 flights in the first week, says the foreign ministry. Three ships of the Indian Navy will sail out for Indian nationals in West Asia and the Maldives. The Indians were stranded because of airspace closures.
Here are 10 developments in this big story:
- The first day of evacuation will see 10 flights to bring back 2,300 Indians, according to news agency ANI.
- Flights from India will go to the US, the Philippines, Singapore, Bangladesh, UAE, UK, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Singapore, Phillippines, Oman, Bahrain, and Kuwait.
- On Day 2, around 2,050 Indians will arrive in Chennai, Kochi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, and Delhi from nine different countries, according to the plan.
- The next day, a similar number is expected to arrive in Mumbai, Kochi, Lucknow, and Delhi from 13 countries spread across the Middle East, Europe, South East Asia, and the USA.
- On Day 4 of the plan, the government would evacuate 1,850 stranded nationals from eight different countries, including the US, UK, and UAE.
- Depending on the aircraft being operated, each flight will have between 200 and 300 passengers to ensure that social distancing is maintained. Before boarding the special flights, the passengers need to declare whether they have fever, cough, diabetes, or any respiratory disease.
- Only asymptomatic passengers would be allowed to travel, the government says.
- The three ships deployed by the Navy include INS Jalashwa, which can bring back 1,000 stranded Indians. The Jalashwa, based in Visakhapatnam, has steamed into the Arabian Sea for the mission.
- INS Shardul and INS Magar, which have also been deployed, will have a reduced carrying capacity because of social distancing and will be able to bring back no more than 300 passengers per trip.
- India banned all incoming international flights in late March as it imposed one of the world’s strictest virus lockdowns, leaving vast numbers of workers and students stranded. Till now, the government had resisted such an operation, given the logistical and safety nightmare of repatriating and quarantining millions of returning citizens.