‘Vande Bharat Mission’ to airlift 14,800 Indians in 13 countries by 64 flights in first week.
In perhaps world’s second largest evacuation mission, India is all set to bring back tens of thousands of Indians stranded abroad due to coronavirus, including in the US, by air and by sea from Thursday.
The ‘Vande Bharat Mission’ as India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar called it in a tweet, would bring back over 14,800 Indians in 13 countries by 64 flights in the first week.
The repatriation drive will cover only Indian citizens and OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) card holders would be excluded.
Those taking the special flights will be charged around Rs 50,000 from Europe and Rs 100,000 from the US. Each flight will have between 200 and 300 passengers to ensure social distancing.
The Indian Air Force has prepared about 30 aircraft, including Boeing’s C-17 Globemaster and Lockheed Martin’s C-130J Super Hercules, for the mission.
READ: India to bring stranded citizens home from May 7 (May 4, 2020)
In addition three Naval warships — INS Shardul, INS Magar and INS Jalashwa — have set out to bring back Indians stuck in West Asia and the Maldives.
This is the biggest exercise since India’s national airline Air India flew back 1,70,000 people during the first Gulf War.
On the first day of evacuation on May 7, ten flights will bring back 2,300 Indians stranded because of airspace closures by various countries to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Over the next few days, India will operate ten flights to the UAE, seven each to the US and UK, five flights to Saudi Arabia, five flights to Singapore and two flights to Qatar.
There will also be flights to Malaysia, Bangladesh, five flights each to Kuwait and Philippines and two flights each to Oman and Bahrain.
“Commenced preparations for Vande Bharat Mission. Planning underway for stranded Indian nationals to return home starting 7th May,” tweeted Jaishankar urging “them to keep in regular touch with their Embassies.”
“Coordinating arrival arrangements with state governments. Confident that our collective efforts will make this a success,” he said in another tweet.
Meanwhile, Indian Embassy in Washington advised Indian nationals in the US who seek to travel back to India to fill a registration form in the following link: https://indianembassyusa.gov.in/reg_indian_nationals
Medical screening of passengers would be done before boarding the flight and only asymptomatic passengers would be allowed to travel, the embassy advised.
All passengers on arrival in India would be medically screened and would have to register on Arogya Setu app, it said.
All passengers will need to undergo a 14-day mandatory quarantine either in a hospital or in an institutional quarantine on payment basis on arrival in India as per the protocols framed by Government of India.
COVID test would be done after 14 days and further action would be taken according to applicable health protocols, the embassy said.
The passengers who arrive in India with negative RT-PCR report will be allowed home quarantine and monitored by the State Government team for a period of 14 days and will self-monitor their health for another 14 days as per protocol.
The cost of travel from designated airport in the USA to the designated airport in India will be borne by the passenger.
All passengers would have to follow the protocols and procedures including Health Protocols issued by the Government of the USA on departure and by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Civil Aviation and other concerned authorities of Government of India before, during the journey and on arrival in India.
All passengers will be required to sign an Undertaking, which will be collected from them before boarding the flight, the embassy said.
India banned all international flights beginning March 23. IndianPrime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day lockout March 24 to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic. It was first extended till May 3 and then again till May 17.