Two hundred and thirty-four Indians landed at Delhi airport on Friday afternoon on Air India’s first repatriation flight from Singapore, AI 381. The Centre’s “Vande Bharat” exercise aims to bring back thousands of Indians stranded in several countries across the world due to the coronavirus pandemic. More than 350 Indians returned from Abu Dhabi late on Thursday night.
External Affair Minister S Jaishankar praised Air India for its efforts. “Flight no. AI381 from Singapore has landed in Delhi. Welcome home,” he tweeted. Another Air India flight, AI 1242, also landed in Srinagar from Dhaka on Friday carrying Indian students.
Air India has also opened up bookings on special flights to other foreign countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Bangladesh, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Philippines, United Aran Emirates and Malaysia.
The flights will ply between May 8 and May 14. In these seven days, Air India will bring back a total of 14,800 Indians on 64 flights, according to the plan released by the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
Air India will also ply domestic flights between Delhi-Srinagar, Mumbai-Ahmedabad, Delhi-Hyderabad, Delhi- Ahmedabad, Cochin-Chennai, Delhi-Chennai among others during this period. The national carrier has issued a set of guidelines to be followed and said that passengers on these flights will be travelling at their own risk.
According to the detailed list, Indian and foreign nationals who hold a valid visa of at least one year of the country of their destination will be allowed on these flights leaving the country. This also includes green card holders and overseas citizens of India. Health workers with a valid permit for travel to the destination country will also be allowed, but they must have the written permission from the Embassy of that country.
The government has prepared a standard operating protocol for the passengers, involving screening for Covid-19 before taking the flight and after reaching the destination. The passengers also have to download the Aarogya Setu app once they land in India. They will be quarantined for 14 days, either in a hospital or in an institutional quarantine on a payment-basis by the concerned state government. They will be tested for Covid-19 after 14 days.
The Centre had evacuated hundreds of Indian citizens from China, Japan, Italy and Iran in March before the government closed the borders and all air travel.