(Juhi Aishwary, Intern Journalist)

New Delhi: Nearly 15,000 Indians stranded abroad are expected to be flown back to the country on 64 flights in the first week of repatriation from May 7, according to the Civil Aviation Ministry.

The Home Ministry on Monday said the plans to bring back Indians stranded abroad due the coronavirus pandemic are chalked out by the govt. and therefore the process will begin from May 7 in a phased manner and it will be a paid service.

According to a guesstimate, the number of Indian nationals stranded abroad could be in lakhs. Their travel would be arranged by the government by airplane and naval ships.

According to the flight plan by the ministry of external affairs (MEA), 64 flights are going to be sent to a dozen countries to repatriate students and blue-collar workers among others from abroad.

So, India finally began to fly back its Citizens home – approximately 2000 people a day. A sneak peek into the 7-day plan, Punjab has just one incoming flight from Dubai, UAE on the 7,” KBS Sidhu, Punjab special Chief Secretary, tweeted on Tuesday.

The flights will be available to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Malaysia, the UK, Singapore, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and thus the US from May 7.

A flight from London to Mumbai or Delhi for example, will cost around Rs 50,000, while traveling from Chicago or San Francisco will cost around Rs 1 lakh.

As many as 15 flights are going to be deployed to bring back residents of Kerala, 11 each for residents of Delhi-NCR and Tamil Nadu, seven each for Maharashtra and Telangana, five for Gujarat, three each for Jammu and Kashmir, three for Karnataka, and one each for Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

As per the plan, blue-collar workers, including those who have lost jobs in West Asia, such as UAE, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, will be repatriated first, followed by students and Indians.

According to the Hindustan Times report, 150,000 Indians have registered to return with the Indian missions in the UAE alone and about 45,000 Indians who benefited from a recent visa amnesty will be brought back from Kuwait.

In a statement, the MHA on Monday said only people showing no symptoms of COVID-19 will be allowed to travel.

After arrival in India, their checkup is going to be conducted, and that they are going to be subsequently anesthetized quarantine for 14 days, either during a hospital or in an institutional facility, also on a payment basis, the statement said.

The Government of India is suitable for facilitating the return of Indians left high and dry abroad on persuasive grounds during a phased mode. The travel would begin on May 7.

The government has prepared a Standard Operating Protocol (SOP) and Indian Embassies and High Commissions are preparing a list of distressed Indian citizens in foreign countries.

“This facility will be available on payment basis. Non-scheduled commercial flights would be prearranged for aviation,” the statement said.

Medical screening of passengers would be done before taking the flight and only asymptomatic passengers would be allowed to travel, it added.

During the journey, all passengers would have to follow social distancing and hygiene protocols issued by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

On reaching the destination, everyone must register on the Arogya Setu app. and everyone would be medically screened. After inspection they might be quarantined for 14 days, both in a hospital or in an institutional quarantine on payment basis, by the concerned government, the house Ministry said.

Their COVID test would be done after 14 days and further action would be taken according to health protocols, it said.

The Ministries of External Affairs and Civil Aviation would soon share complete information about it through their websites.

The state governments are advised to form arrangements for testing, quarantine, and recurring Indians in their respective states.

India banned the arrival of international flights at the beginning March 23.

India went into a 21-day lockdown beginning of March 25 in a bid to combat the Coronavirus endemic. The lockdown was extended till May 3 then again till May 17.

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