The first of the nearly 20 special flights will operate on Friday from Singapore and will evacuate 240 Indians from the city-state who are stranded amidst the international travel lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic, the Indian High Commissioner here said on Thursday.
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The Indian government has announced plans to begin a phased repatriation of its citizens stranded abroad from May 7. Air India will operate 64 flights from May 7 to May 13 to bring back around 15,000 Indian nationals stranded abroad amid the COVID-19-induced lockdown, it was announced on Tuesday.
India is conducting its biggest ever repatriation exercise named Vande Bharat Mission -sans social distancing and COVID-19 tests to bring back stranded Indians from abroad, including from the U.S., the U.K. and the UAE.
The first of the nearly 20 Air India flights will take home 240 Indians from here on Friday who are part of the over 3,500 expatriates caught in the lockdown, Jawed Ashraf, Indian High Commissioner to Singapore, told PTI .
The flight will leave Singapore at 8.35 a.m. for Delhi on Friday with one more scheduled for Delhi and one each for Bangalore and Mumbai, he said.
Flights for other destinations like Chennai, Trichy, Amritsar, Ahmedabad and Kolkata have also been requested, Ashraf said.
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All passengers will be medically tested and those symptomatic of COVID-19 will not be allowed to board from Singapore. The passengers will also be screened on arrival in India and quarantined in the government arranged facilities, including in hotels, for 14 days.
All flights and quarantined costs are being paid by the passengers themselves, he added.
High Commissioner Ashraf said he expected the number of stranded Indians to increase as more come forward and seek assistance to return home.
The stranded Indians include tourists, business travellers, people on family visits, professionals whose Employment Pass have expired and their family members, students who have finished their courses or have to pursue them online or are no longer in a position to sustain themselves here.
Also stranded are 55 priests who were here for a function at a Hindu temple.
Among the stranded are several hundred students, who were pursuing technical or vocational courses here and were financing their stay and studies through parttime work.
With the lockdown and the circuit breaker measures to control spread of the disease in Singapore, the students are now in a difficult position.