Covid-19: India readies for its largest ever repatriation mission

Covid-19: India readies for its largest ever repatriation mission

New Delhi: In what could be a decisive phase in its battle against deadly Covid-19, India is all set to start largest evacuation of its nationals stranded abroad from Thursday.

The first week, from May seven to 13, alone will see around 14,800 NRIs returning from at least 12 countries. To facilitate this, a total of 64 special flights will be operated to the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, UK, USA, Singapore, Philippines, Bangladesh and Malaysia, according to the action plan prepared by the Ministry of External Affairs.

The maximum flights (15) will be operated to Kerala, the south Indian state with a sizeable diaspora in the Gulf region. A total of 10 flights will come from UAE, which hosts the largest number of Indians globally.

Meanwhile, the Indian Navy too has dispatched three of its largest ships to evacuate citizens stranded in Maldives and the UAE. While INS Jalashwa and INS Magar will bring back Indians from Maldives, INS Shardul will ship back those from the UAE.

India aims to bring back 1.92 lakh expatriates in the first phase alone. However, the challenge will be to facilitate their testing and quarantine stay. 

All the citizens coming back should mandatorily fill-up a form and submit a copy to the Health and Immigration Counter upon arrival, stating whether they are suffering from symptoms like fever, cough or any respiratory disease. Thermal testing will also be facilitated at the airports and all persons suspected of infection will be shifted to quarantine facilities.

“All passengers will be screened even before they board the flights and only asymptomatic ones will be allowed to travel. They have to follow existing Covid-19 prevention guidelines in the flight and at airports,” said an MEA official.

Meanwhile, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan held a review meeting on Tuesday to analyse the State's preparedness in meeting the sudden influx of NRKs, especially the quarantine facilities. As many as 4.13 lakh of its citizens abroad have registered with the NORKA ROOTS, as on May 3, to return to the home state.

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