Govt considers special flights to evacuate Indians over coronavirus outbreak
Indians stranded at airports and cities in several countries because of Covid-19-related travel restrictions are being advised to hunker down and stay put ahead of the suspension of all international flights from March 22, people familiar with developments said on Friday.
Special flights will be operated on Saturday to evacuate some 200 Indians from Italy and more from Uzbekistan, the people cited above said on condition of anonymity. Some Indians stranded at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam are expected to return on a KLM flight early on Saturday, they said. “Moving forward, we are asking stranded Indians to stay where they are. They should get in touch with Indian missions. We are operating in very challenging circumstances,” said a person requesting anonymity.
About 70 Indians are stranded at the airport in Kuala Lumpur following the government’s March 17 decision to suspend all flights from Malaysia for a week. They are currently inside the terminal with little clarity on whether they will be able to get a flight home during the suspension. The Indian high commission in Kuala Lumpur said it has assisted more than 860 Indians this week, while 405 stranded citizens were evacuated on special flights on March 18. “Difficult times. Tough choices to make,” the mission tweeted.
Rahul Saigal, a professional stranded in Manila after the government also barred flights from the Philippines, told HT it was unclear when he and some other Indians would be able to return home. “I was in transit and there was no window at all in the March 17 order, which resulted in me being stranded here,” he said.
Additional secretary Dammu Ravi, the external affairs ministry’s pointsperson for Covid-19-related matters, told a news briefing: “It is not advisable for people to move from one region to another…These restrictions are temporary, so no one should panic. If Indians are [stranded] in some places, our advice would be to stay put.”
Authorities in the UK and other countries, where Indians are stranded, are working on ways to assist those whose visas are due to expire, the people cited above said. These steps are in line with India’s decision to provide free of charge extensions to foreign nationals whose visas have expired, they said.