In one of the largest evacuation exercises named “Vande Bharat Mission“, the government will operate 64 flights between May 7 to 13 to bring home nearly 14,800 Indian nationals stranded abroad due to the coronavirus lockdown.
India will send 10 flights to the UAE, seven flights each to the US and the UK, five flights to Saudi Arabia, five to Singapore and two to Qatar to repatriate Indian nationals, Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said.
During this period, India will also send seven flights each to Malaysia and Bangladesh, five flights each to Kuwait and Philippines, two flights each to Oman and Bahrain, Puri added.
Commenced preparations for Vande Bharat Mission. Planning underway for stranded Indian nationals to return home starting 7th May. Urge them to keep in regular touch with their Embassies. pic.twitter.com/uFtNijO3DO
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) May 5, 2020
These special flights will be operated by Air India and its subsidiary Air India Express. The government said only those who test Covid-19 negative would be allowed to travel. Priority will be given to “compelling cases in distress”, including migrant workers/labourers who have been laid off, short term visa holders faced with expiry of visas, persons with medical emergencies, pregnant women, the elderly, those who are required to return due to death of a family member, and students.
Passengers will be charged Rs 50,000 each for London-Delhi/Mumbai/Ahmedabad/Bangalore flights and Rs 12,000 for Dhaka-Delhi flight. Passengers being repatriated from the US will be charged Rs 1 lakh, while those from Dubai will have to shell out Rs 13,000.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) will give travellers two days notice with the schedule (day, place and time of arrival) of the incoming flight on its website. On board, the health protocol announced by the MoCA will be applicable.
On arrival, all passengers will undergo mandatory institutional quarantine for a minimum of 13 days, at their own cost.
The Aarogya Setu mobile app is mandatory for travellers.
Here is the full fare list:
The maximum number of flights (15) will be sent from Kerala, 11 each for Delhi-NCR and Tamil Nadu, seven for Maharashtra and Telangana, five for Gujarat, three each for Jammu and Kashmir and Karnataka and one each for Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.
“Those arriving by repatriation flights will be screened, put under 14-day quarantine. Out of the 64 flights to bring back stranded Indians from abroad, 11 from nine countries will land in Tamil Nadu,” PTI quoted Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri as saying.
The routes that are being considered include Manila-Chennai, Chicago-Delhi-Hyderabad, New York-Delhi-Hyderabad, Kuwait-Kozhikode and San Francisco-Delhi-Bengaluru. Approximately, 2,000 people from abroad will fly back to India daily.
Punya Salila Srivastava, a joint secretary in the Union Home Ministry, said stranded Indians who would be brought back by special flights from abroad would have to download ‘Aarogya Setu’ mobile app and follow all the government-issued health guidelines.
The Indian Consulate in Dubai, in a statement, on Monday announced that “the cost of the tickets and other conditions for travel including quarantine requirements after reaching India, and health requirements to board the flight will be conveyed in due course and will have to be accepted by each passenger.”
Air tickets will only be issued to those on the passenger lists prepared by the Embassy or Consulate, the statement said.
Earlier, in a presentation by MEA, it was estimated that of the 1 crore people who are currently abroad on an Indian passport, about 1,92,000 in dire need may be brought back in socially-distanced flights, provided they have proof of being Covid-19 negative.
The statement further said that the passengers will be medically screened before taking the flight. Only asymptomatic passengers will be allowed to travel. During the journey, all passengers will have to follow protocols, such as the Health protocol, issued by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
India has been under a lockdown since March 25 to curb the spread of the coronavirus and it will continue till May 17. All commercial passenger flights have been suspended for this period.