AI, pvt carriers may help evacuate Indians | India News

New Delhi: In the biggest exercise of its kind globally, India will begin bringing back lakhs of its citizens stranded abroad from Thursday (May 7) in a phased manner on non-schedule flights and naval ships.
Among the first targets is UAE, where about 2 lakh people have registered with the local missions to return from Dubai and Abu Dhabi alone, and who could be brought back in the first phase. Official sources here said in the “short-term’’ the government hopes to facilitate the return of 1,92,000 Indians and another 2-2.5 lakh in the medium term.
After the initial focus on Gulf, the government will look to bring back people from the US, UK, Iran and southeast Asia. In what comes as a surprise, around 20,000 Indians have registered in the US for repatriation. India had to first focus on the Gulf because the governments there, like in the UAE, were threatening to impose restrictions on countries reluctant to take back their citizens after the coronavirus outbreak.
The government said it will allow the return of distressed Indians on “compelling grounds” and that only those asymptomatic will be allowed to travel. They will have to pay for their travel and 14-day quarantine on return — either in hospitals or institutional quarantine — apart from registering on the Arogya Setu app.
The exercise will start on Tuesday with the government sending a naval ship to Maldives to bring back Indians. Around 700 stranded citizens are expected to be evacuated on May 8 from Male and brought to Kochi‬. The Indian high commission in Male is reaching out to Indians who wish to return on “compelling grounds’ (medical and other emergencies, pregnant women, stranded tourists, jobless migrant workers from Kerala).
India had stopped scheduled international flights on March 22 and asked Indians abroad to stay put till arrangements were made to bring them back.
“Medical screening of passengers would be done before taking the flight. During the journey, all these passengers would have to follow protocols, such as health protocols, issued by the ministries of health and aviation,’’ said the government in a statement. Given the scale of operations, both private airlines and Air India are likely to be deployed for the exercise. In terms of scale, the 1990 invasion of Kuwait had seen 1.7 lakh Indians being flown back from August 13-October 11, 1990, on Air India flights.
The Indian missions abroad had created a link for registration of those looking to return but had said this wasn’t going to guarantee a seat in the aircraft. Scores of Indians, including students, have registered from north America, UK, Europe, southeast Asia and Australia. Aware of the fact that thousands of Indians in the regions had contracted Covid-19, the government briefly toyed with the idea of getting people tested for Covid-19 before allowing them to take the flight to India but gave it up because of the numbers involved.
On reaching the destination, it said, everyone will have to register on the Arogya Setu app. Everyone will also be medically screened. After scrutiny, they would be quarantined for 14 days, either in a hospital or in an institutional quarantine on payment-basis, by the concerned state government. “Covid test would be done after 14 days and further action would be taken according to health protocols,’’ said the government.
“State governments are being advised to make arrangements, including for testing, quarantine and onward movement of returning Indians in their respective states,’’ it added.
After Singapore, where Indian workers living in dormitories have been badly affected by Covid-19, the Gulf nations together account for maximum number of infections to Indian nationals.
Sources say 1.5 lakh Indians have registered to fly back from Dubai by May 2. Of these, over 60% have registered to return to Kerala — Kochi, Kozikhode, Trivandrum, Kannur and Trichy. Over 38,000 Indians have registered from Abu Dhabi. These figures, say sources, are as of May 2 and expected to rise by another 20% with 10,000 likely to drop out. In all, about 2.2 lakh Indians are expected to fly back from Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the first phase alone

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