The Vande Bharat Mission to bring stranded Non-Resident Keralites back home in the wake of a global lockdown following the COVID-19 pandemic got off to a firm start with two flights from the Gulf carrying 363 passengers touching down at the Cochin and Karipur airports on Thursday night.
The first flight carrying 177 adult passengers and four children from Abu Dhabi landed at the Cochin international airport at 10.08 p.m. The Air India Express flight was initially scheduled to land at 9.40 p.m. The passengers included 48 pregnant women.
The special flight carrying 182 Malayali expatriates, including five children, from Dubai reached Karipur at 10.35 p.m.
The passengers on the Kochi flight had been issued affidavits to be submitted on arrival on the flight itself. The flight was received at a specially prepared bay and passengers used the specially designated aerobridge for disembarking.
They also underwent an initial temperature test using thermal gun as they disembarked. After this they underwent a thermal screening.
The baggage belt number five was deployed. The baggage area and the baggage were disinfected using ultraviolet light.
Pregnant women were given a choice either to use taxis arranged by the airport authorities or to use their own transport to proceed, said a communication from the airport authorities.
Eight KSRTC buses and 40 taxis were made available for the passengers for onward journey. Five immigration counters manned by 10 officials processed the papers. According to sources, three buses took 60 passengers to the Thrissur and Guruvayur quarantine facilities.
The pilot, co-pilot and crew of the Air India Express flight expressed pride at being chosen for the mission. Captain Anshul Shiromg, co-pilot Rizwin Nazer and crew Deepak, Riyanka, Anjana and Tashi Bhutia had received training on infection containment at the Government MCH, Ernakulam, on Wednesday. They said they were not afraid of taking up the task and had support from their families for undertaking the mission.
At Karipur, the health authorities subjected the passengers to thermal scanning soon after they left the flight and entered the aerobridge. District Medical Officer K. Sakeena and her team counselled them about the importance of self-isolation and social distancing. Those who showed disease symptoms were shifted to Governement Medical College Hospitals at Kozhikode and Manjeri.
Those who needed urgent medical care, pregnant women, children below 10 years of age, senior citizens above 75 years, and those with negative results were allowed to go home. However, they will have to remain in self-quarantine for two weeks. All others from the district were sent to the Safa Hospital COVID care centre at Kalikavu. Passengers from Kozhikode, Wayanad, Palakkad, Kannur, and Kasaragod were sent to the corona care centres in their respective districts.