COVID-19: Over 700 Indians stranded in Maldives set to sail back home under 'Operation Samudra Setu'
Over 400 stranded Indians, including medical students, were brought back home on Friday from Bangladesh and Singapore in two Air India aircraft as part of the government's mega repatriation mission Vande Bharat.
The first flight from Singapore landed at the Delhi airport around 11.45 am with 234 passengers, senior officials said.
Within a couple of hours, the second special flight with 167 students arrived at the Srinagar airport from Dhaka.
The Indian government on Monday had announced phased repatriation from May 7 of its citizens stranded abroad. It said Air India will operate 64 flights till May 13 to bring back around 15,000 Indians stranded abroad due to the coronavirus lockdown.
India imposed a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country, grounding all domestic and international flights since late March.
After the returnees reached IGI airport, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said all arrangements have been made for the Indians coming from other countries.
"Delhi govt has made all arrangements for the Indians arriving from abroad," he tweeted.
All the arriving passengers were put through screening and triaging to find out any infection of coronavirus.
After immigration and customs formalities, they headed towards paid quarantine facilities where they will spend 14 days, before going home.
Officials in Srinagar said the 167 medical students underwent screening at the airport before they were sent to administrative quarantine for a period of 14 days as mandated under the guidelines issued for curbing the spread of COVID-19.
Srinagar Deputy Commissioner Shahid Iqbal Chaudhary expressed his gratitude to the Indian High Commission in Dhaka for the "tremendous efforts" in getting these students home.
"Profound gratitude to Indian High Commission @ihcdhaka for tremendous efforts. More to follow. For convenience of students -- bulk tickets next," Chaudhary said in a tweet.
The High Commission of India in Bangladesh had launched a dedicated link on its website for the registration for Indians wishing to return home. High Commissioner Riva Ganguly Das interacted with the students at the airport as they prepared to complete the formalities to fly back home.
It (the flight) is carrying only students. The students are enrolled in medical colleges in the country. We were in constant touch with them and their colleges have also taken good care of them," she said in Dhaka prior to the departure.
She further said that a total of seven flights will be operated from Dhaka.
Strict precautionary measures were taken to ensure social distancing when the Indians arrived at the IGI airport. The returnees waved, smiled and gave thumbs-up to waiting mediapersons as they were taken to quarantine facilities in buses.
"Those from Delhi will stay at 8-10 hotels that have been readied in New Delhi, South and South East Delhi as well as Aerocity, as paid quarantine facilities," said a government official.
Nearly 20 buses, including of DTC and neighbouring states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab, were deployed at IGI airport for carrying people to quarantine facilities.
According to standard operating procedure of the government for Indians arriving at IGI airport, resident commissioners and nodal officers will take care of people of their respective states regarding transport and quarantine facilities.
Several medical teams drawn from municipal corporations, New Delhi Municipal Council, and Rao Tula Ram Memorial Hospital were deployed for screening the passengers from Singapore.
Meanwhile, an Air India flight with around 200 Indians from Sharjah will arrive in Lucknow on Saturday night, A K Sharma, director of the Chaudhary Charan Singh International Airport, said.
Over 700 Indians are also being evacuated by sea from the Maldives who were stranded in the scenic island due to the COVID-19 linked international travel restrictions.
The Indian Navy's amphibious warship INS Jalashwa reached Male on Thursday to undertake the massive repatriation mission named 'Operation Samudra Setu', the High Commission of India in Maldives said.
The first Naval ship from Male is expected to arrive at the Cochin Port on May 10, Port Trust officials in Kochi said.
The INS Jalashwa is properly equipped with relief materials, COVID-19 protection gear along with medical and administrative support staff.
The INS Magar, an amphibious warfare vessel of the Indian Navy, will also join the repatriation mission in Male as part of the efforts to bring back around 1,000 stranded Indian nationals to the Kochi port in Kerala over the next few days.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)