London: Around seven special Air India flights are being scheduled from Heathrow Airport here to Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Bangalore starting Thursday. These will bring back stranded Indians around the world back to the country amid the coronavirus lockdown.
The High Commission here has been operating an online registration process for Indian nationals wanting to fly back home. Thousands have already applied.
According to officials, the more vulnerable cases will be given priority for booking on to these flights. The expenses will have to be paid by the passengers. They will also have to sign an undertaking to go into 14-day quarantine on arrival in India.
“This news will come as a big relief to Indians who find themselves stranded in the UK. They have been desperate to return,” said Ruchi Ghanashyam, the outgoing Indian High Commissioner to the UK.
“There are students who may have completed their courses and others who came to Britain on a short-term basis. There are pregnant ladies as well as cases of medical ailments and bereavements. They have all been separated from their families and will now be looking forward to being reunited with their loved ones,” Ghanashyam said.
The Indian government announced plans to facilitate the return of Indians stranded abroad on ‘compelling grounds’ in a phased manner Monday. Air India will start by operating non-scheduled commercial flights from here between Thursday and next Tuesday. Air India will kick-start with flights from Heathrow to Mumbai. This will be followed by flights to Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Chennai and New Delhi.
“Due to limited number of these flights, priority will be given to carry people who are in the most vulnerable categories. Among them are elderly people, pregnant women and people facing medical emergencies,” the Indian mission here said.
“Medical screening of passengers would be done before taking the flight. Only asymptomatic passengers would be allowed to travel,” it added.
Gloves and masks are likely to be provided to all the passengers as social distancing in the seating plan on the aircraft may not be possible. The cost of a ticket on these evacuation flights is yet to be confirmed but will be made by the confirmed passengers to Air India directly.
The mandatory quarantine on landing in India is also at the passenger’s own expense. It will be either in a hospital or an institutional quarantine set up by the relevant state government.
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