The first Covid-19 evacuation flight from London to Ahmedabad departed from Heathrow airport on Wednesday, with 327 Indians who had been stranded in the United Kingdom since the nationwide lockdown was first announced in March. Several of these passengers are residents of Gujarat, including Ahmedabad, Kheda, Anand, Vadodara and Surat districts.
On their arrival, the passengers will opt for paid or unpaid institutional quarantine. According to local administrations of the districts, the passengers will have to choose a quarantine in a location outside their home district as part of the protocol.
The flight departed about an hour and ten minutes later than its scheduled departure of 9:45 am, local time in London, due to the exhaustive medical screening of passengers. It will land in Ahmedabad in the wee hours of Thursday. It also has a stop in New Delhi en route Ahmedabad. At the airport, the passengers will be required to choose a quarantine facility in the district nearest to their home district.
District Collector of Kheda, IK Patel said, “We have made arrangements for a free quarantine facility at the Swaminarayan temple in Vadtal. Those wanting to opt for paid quarantine can choose from private hotels. We have set up a facility of about 250 persons in each of the two categories. We are expecting many from Ahmedabad and Vadodara to opt for stay in Kheda, as Ahmedabad, Surat and Vadodara have not made quarantine centres owing to higher number of Covid-19 cases.”
While most stranded passengers are relieved to be returning home, the mandatory 14-day quarantine has dampened the spirit of others. A student from London, returning to his home in Anand, said, “I have been through the lowest phase of my life in the last 50 days… running out of money and being mildly symptomatic with no access to medical help in London. I cannot think of staying in isolation for another 14 days. I want to get home… this is breaking me.”
Another passenger Hetal Munshi, a singer who will be returning to her four-year-old twins and elderly parents in Vadodara, said, “I know that the quarantine is for the greater good, but the thought of not being able to go home for 14 days is heavy. Moreover, if one has to opt for paid quarantine, it will be very difficult as none of us (15 other singers in her troupe) received the money for our performances since the lockdown… My husband is managing our twins and ageing parents without any help.”
A doctor from Vidyanagar in Anand, Sonal Panchmatiya, said she hoped that the government would consider home quarantine for those who have space available at their residences. However, a 23-year-old student from Vadodara, Priya Balani, said, “I believe it is better for everyone that we stay in institutional quarantine. These are just the precautions one needs to take during such trying times. We’ve waited for months to see our families, a few more days will not hurt.”
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