US mission to India pausing repatriation flights to assess demand.
With coronavirus cases in the US crossing the million mark with 60,000 deaths, many stranded Americans seem reluctant to return home preferring to “ride it out” in India with only a thousand plus fatalities.
The US Embassy and Consulates in India have successfully repatriated more than 5,100 travelers from across India to the US, the embassy said Thursday, but it’s now pausing repatriation flights to access demand.
“We are currently pausing repatriation flights in order to assess ongoing demand and determine what degree of assistance may be needed as the authorities lift lock-down restrictions,” it said.
The world’s largest lock-down in India that began March 25 is currently set to end on May 3, but it’s unclear how far restrictions would be eased after that.
Meanwhile, in Washington, officials told reporters in a teleconference the largest number of US citizens requesting repatriation assistance were still in India and Pakistan.
“With regard to the hotspots, the places with the greatest continuing demand, those are still South Central Asia – India, Pakistan,” Ian Brownlee, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of Consular Affairs, said.
However, “We’re getting to the point in India where the yet-to-be-repatriated list is not as clear as it was two weeks ago,” he said.
“Two weeks ago, Brownlee said, “we had a list of folks and we were pretty sure if we called folks they’d show up at the airport and say, ‘Yes, please’.”
“We’re now getting to the point on that list we’re having to make multiple calls for individual seats because people are deciding no, they’d just as soon ride it out it out where they are.”
“So it’s – I’m not really willing to say what the number of people yet to be repatriated from there is just for that reason,” he said.
“Same sort of thing is going on in Pakistan, where there a fair number of people have expressed some interest in repatriation, but it’s just not clear how many of them really would go, push come to shove,” Brownlee said.
“Those are the two big pockets we’re looking at, and then people across Africa in smaller groups.”
Since January 29, Brownlee said, 71,538 Americans have been repatriated on 750 flights from 127 countries and territories.
Upcoming worldwide, the US has another 63 flights planned with about 4,000 people on the passenger schedule, Brownlee said, “and we’re going to try to bring all those folks home sometime over the next week or so.”
“However, as I have said many times before, this will not continue indefinitely,” he cautioned advising, “US citizens remaining abroad who wish to come home should raise their hand to do so now by enrolling at step.state.gov.”
Covid-19: 6,000 Americans waiting to be airlifted from India (April 24, 2020)
US plans last repatriation flights out of India (April 16, 2020)
Covid-19: Stranded Americans want to stay put in India (April 13, 2020)
No US-India evacuation flights for now (April 3, 2020)
Hundreds of US citizens, NRIs stranded in India (March 27, 2020)