Covid-19: US plans last repatriation flights out of India

India has no plans to take its citizens in US home for now.

Stranded in India due to coronavirus pandemic, many Americans face a dilemma: fly back to the worst affected nation or shelter in a completely locked down India with less than 425 deaths to date.

But Uncle Sam is getting impatient with their indecision. Faced with diminishing demand for repatriation flights, it has served notice on them to make up  their minds “or be prepared to remain in India until commercial flights resume.”

India which banned all international flights on March 22 has extended a nationwide lockdown until May 3 midnight. All international and domestic flights remain suspended until then.

In its latest update Thursday, the US embassy in New Delhi said the US State Department and the US Mission to India have repatriated over 3,200 US citizens from India to the US in recent weeks — indicating only 100 or so Americans had flown out in the last couple of days.

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“We are working to arrange a potential final set of special chartered flights for US citizens and their families departing India,” the embassy said, “and we need to re-assess demand for repatriation flights.

The mission urged “US citizens who wish to return to the United States take advantage of this opportunity or be prepared to remain in India until commercial flights resume.”

It also asked those “still interested in departing India on a US government-facilitated flight” to register to confirm their interest to travel at short notice within the next two weeks

Those interested must use this new form: even if they have registered, emailed, or otherwise contacted the embassy before.

If these flights are authorized, the embassy said, it expected these may be the final US government-organized flights returning to the US from India during the covid-19 crisis.

The flights are not yet authorized or confirmed. But they would likely follow the same route as previous flights: New Delhi to San Francisco, and Mumbai to Atlanta.

The flights are not free.  All passengers will need to sign promissory notes to reimburse the US government for the cost of the flight.  Previous flights have cost between $2,000 and $2,500 per person.

Only US citizens with confirmations from the US Mission to India will be allowed to board the flights, the embassy said.

Meanwhile, the Indian Embassy in Washington informed Indian nationals in the US that all international flights to and domestic flights within India would remain suspended until May 3.

“This action has been taken in the interest of public health and safety of all Indian citizens,” it said.

“In view of these temporary travel restrictions,” the embassy advised all Indian nationals to: Stay safe and self-isolated within the residential premises and follow the advisories updated on CDC web site and other state and federal advisories relevant to covid-19.”

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