First batch of Gulf evacuees will reach Kerala today

Updated on May 07, 2020 01:50 PM IST

Erankulam district collector S Suhas said all arrangements for their mandatory 14-day quarantine have been made.

Though over four lakh stranded people from across the world have enrolled on the state government’s website pleading to return home, the authorities are looking at evacuating around two lakh in May.(PTI file photo.)
Though over four lakh stranded people from across the world have enrolled on the state government’s website pleading to return home, the authorities are looking at evacuating around two lakh in May.(PTI file photo.)
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram | By

Two Air India (AI) Express flights – Abu Dhabi-Kochi and Dubai-Kozhikode – carrying the first batch of 347 evacuees from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will reach Kerala on Thursday evening.

AI officials said the first two flights from the UAE comprise the vulnerable lot, who has been stranded in the Gulf state since India suspended all international flights on March 22 to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak.

GS Athira, a seven-month pregnant woman, who had moved a plea in the Supreme Court last week pressing for the evacuation of the vulnerable stranded in the Persian Gulf states, is among the returnees.

The first flight from Abu Dhabi will reach the Cochin International Airport at 9.40pm and will have 179 expatriates on board. Among the 179 UAE returnees, 73 are from Thrissur district, Ernakulam (25), Malappuram (23), Alappuzha (15), 13 each from Palakkad and Kottayam and another eight from Pathanamthitta.

The second flight from Dubai, carrying 168 passengers, will reach Kozhikode International Airport by 10:30 pm, where the maximum number of passengers are from the Malappuram district.

Erankulam district collector S Suhas said all arrangements for their mandatory 14-day quarantine have been made.

“The passengers will be directly taken from the Kochi International Airport to quarantine homes in their respective districts. Pregnant women, senior citizens, and children under the age of 10 will be quarantined at home. SCMS Hostel at Kalamassery in Ernakulam will double up as a quarantine facility,” he said.

“The flight will have special parking bays and aerobridges. Upon entering the terminal, the temperature of the passengers will be checked along with thermal scanning. An ambulance will take those, who show symptoms for Covid-19, to Aluva District Hospital via a special route. While passengers’ bags will be disinfected with sodium hypochlorite,” he added.

The state government has set up Covid-19 facilities near all four international airports and has also arranged vacant flats, houses, and houseboats to accommodate the expatriates.

Though over four lakh stranded people from across the world have enrolled on the state government’s website pleading to return home, the authorities are looking at evacuating around two lakh in May.

Besides, airlines are forced to operate half their carrying capacity because of strict enforcement of social distancing norms.

Called ‘Vande Bharat’ operation, the latest evacuation is dubbed as the biggest since the Kuwait invasion by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 1990.

Kerala is grappling with twin issues ---inter-state workers and its own expatriates. At least eight trains, carrying stranded migrant workers, had left the state since last Friday and more are expected in the coming days.

Kerala is the first state in the country to report a Covid-19 positive case after a student pursuing medical studies in China tested positive on January 31.

On Wednesday, the state didn’t report a single Covid-19 positive case.

Kerala has reported 30 active Covid-19 positive cases and four deaths to date.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

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