Vande Bharat: 1,389 Indians brought back in special flights, ship

The special Air India flights and INS Jalashwa were a part of India's biggest evacuation process since independence in which the country aims to bring back home over 15,000 Indians stranded abroad

Air India Express, Abu Dhabi-Calicut flight, engine snag, Airturnback
The Boeing 737-800 aircraft had 184 passengers onboard and all were safe, an airline spokesperson said. (Representational photo: ANI/Twitter)

As part of the Vande Bharat mission, four flights and a ship carrying 1,389 Indian nationals landed at different airports and the port of Kochi on Friday (May 8) night.

Two flights carrying over 356 Indian nationals from UAE landed at the Chennai International airport on Friday night.

The special Air India flights were a part of Vande Bharat Mission — India’s biggest air evacuation process since independence — in which the country aims to bring back home over 15,000 Indians stranded abroad due to the unprecedented lockdown in vie of the coronavirus outbreak.

The 356 Indian nationals, including three infants, were screened and tested for COVID-19 on arrival and passengers were placed under quarantine as per guidelines.

Government officials told NDTV that they were offered the option of free government quarantine or a paid hotel quarantine.

Two more flights carrying a total of 335 people from the Gulf countries landed in Kerala’s two airports on Friday night, as the country entered second day of the mass evacuation process.

While an Air India repatriation flight from Riyadh carrying 153 passengers, including 84 pregnant women, 22 children and four infants landed at the Kozhikode airport 8 pm, another Air India Express flight from Bahrain with 177 passengers, including 5 infants, reached Kochi airport at 11.32 pm.

Two flights had landed at Kochi and Kozhikode on Thursday from Abu Dhabi and Dubai, respectively.

According to Kozhikode airport sources, the flight from Riyadh carried five people having some health issues and they would be shifted to Manjeri and Kozhikode medical college hospitals.

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Ten passengers from neighbouring states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu also travelled in the flight from Riyadh, the sources said.

The passengers were subjected to thermal test at the aerobridge itself before allowing them to undergo customs and immigration checks, Kozhikode airport sources said.

Official sources said all the passengers would be subjected to COVID-19 rapid test at the airport before transferring them to their respective destinations by special taxis and KSRTC buses.

As per the norms, all the pregnant women and children would be transported to their homes and others would be shifted to coronavirus care centres in their home districts.

According to the Indian embassy, the Indian expatriate community of approximately 3.42 million is reportedly the largest ethnic community in the UAE constituting roughly about 30 per cent of the country’s population.

The Indian returnees have been short-listed from a database of more than 2,00,000 applicants, who include around 6,500 pregnant women, Neeraj Agrawal, Consul, Press, Information and Culture at the Indian consulate in Dubai told PTI.

Air India will operate 64 repatriation flights between May 7 and May 14 while the Navy has deployed two ships to complete the mission.

Evacuation by Sea

Indian Navy Ship Jalashwa has set sail from Male to Kochi in Kerala with 698 Indians nationals who were stranded in Maldives amid the coronavirus-triggered lockdown, senior Navy officials said.

This repatriation via ships is also a part of the Vande Bharat Mission that began on Thursday to bring stranded Indians home from various countries like the UK, the UAE, the US, Maldives, Bahrain and Singapore.

“Total 595 males and 103 females have boarded INS Jalashwa. 19 women are pregnant. The ship has departed from Male,” the Navy officials added.

When the ship arrived at the port of Male, the Defence Attache visited it to discuss and coordinate procedures for embarkation, they said.

Related news: First Air India repatriation flight to take off from UK with 250 Indians

“Baggage disinfection stations, medical screening and reception desks at the jetty were set up to ensure safe embarkation while following social distancing norms,” the officials said.

Priority was accorded to pregnant women and children to embark the ship first and bunk allocation was also undertaken by the ships crew catering to age and medical requirements, they added.

Inside this mission, the Navy had launched Operation Samudra Setu (Sea Bridge) under which it dispatched two ships to Male to commence the first phase of the evacuation operations from May 8.

(With inputs from agencies)