Coronavirus News Asia

India to mount ‘massive’ coronavirus repatriation


India has embarked on a “massive” operation, calling up passenger jets and naval ships to bring back some of the hundreds of thousands of nationals stuck abroad due to coronavirus restrictions, the government said.

India banned all incoming international flights in late March as it imposed one of the world’s strictest virus lockdowns, leaving vast numbers of workers and students stranded.

A defense spokesman said on Tuesday that two ships were steaming towards the Maldives and another to the United Arab Emirates – home to a 3.3-million-strong Indian community, who make up about 30% of the Gulf state’s population.

A government statement said repatriation flights would start bringing nationals home from Thursday, and that Indian embassies and high commissions were preparing lists of “distressed Indian citizens.”

Evacuees will have to pay for their passage the statement said, without elaborating, and spend 14 days in quarantine on arrival.

“Covid test would be done after 14 days and further action would be taken according to health protocols,” it added.

The consulate in Dubai said it alone had received almost 200,000 applications, appealing on Twitter for “patience and cooperation” as India undertakes the “massive task” of repatriation.

The oil-rich Gulf is reliant on the cheap labor of millions of foreigners – mostly from India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka – many of whom live in squalid camps far from the region’s showy skyscrapers and malls.


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