India locked itself down in March 2020, stopping all flights inwards as well. The consequence of the seven weeks or so of lockdown for India has been that there have been no domestic or international flights operational, and India has only been allowing repatriation flights from the country to take away citizens of other countries who were stuck in India. To the best of my knowledge, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Britain, and the USA have been flying out their citizens from India as of now.
For these seven weeks, Indian Citizens have not been allowed back in the country, apart from a few repatriation flights that have been operated by Air India to bring them back. While most of these flights were operated by Air India and were free for the passengers, such as those from Wuhan, the epicentre of the CoronaVirus outbreak, some flights were also conducted by foreign airlines such as AirAsia. However, it seems the most asked question posed to me, “when international flights will start?”, might finally be answered today by the Government of India.
Just today, the Government of India has announced that they will be working towards bringing more Indians stuck abroad home. Here is a copy of the press release that has just been put out.
The circular reads that,
Indian Embassies and High Commissions are preparing a list of distressed Indian citizens. This facility would be made available on payment-basis. Non-scheduled commercial flights would be arranged for air travel. The travel would begin in a phased manner from May 7.
Medical screening of passengers would be done before taking the flight. Only asymptomatic passengers would be allowed to travel. During the journey, all these passengers would have to follow the protocols, such as the Health Protocols, issued by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
On reaching the destination, everyone would have to register on the Arogya Setu app. Everyone would be medically screened. After scrutiny, they would be quarantined for 14 days, either in a hospital or in an institutional quarantine on payment-basis, by the concerned State government. COVED test would be done after 14 days and further action would be taken according to health protocols.
The Ministries of External Affairs and Civil Aviation would soon share detailed information about it through their websites.
State Governments are being advised to make arrangements, including for testing, quarantine and onward movement of the returning Indians in their respective States.
This is a positive development for Indians stuck abroad and not being able to come back home. However, massive numbers are going to be involved. It is an estimate that about 700,000 Indians are overseas at the moment who would like to be getting back, and obviously, there would be a vast number of repatriation flights required to bring them back. The other good news is, these flights won’t be free of cost, which means, FINALLY, the taxpayer will not be bearing the burden of these flights to bring back Indians from outside the country. I do hope India enters some sort of an arrangement where they will not fly empty planes one leg. For instance, they could fly out British citizens and then bring back Indians on the same flight? Or, allow BA to fly to India and bring Indians on those flights as well?
I will make available more details when details are available about tickets for sale. What do you make of these plans to bring Indians back home?
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