Vande Bharat mission: First Indians arrive home on repatriation flights from the UAE

Two flights which landed in Kerala state from Abu Dhabi and Dubai Thursday were carrying 354 people, including nine infants.

First two flights bring home Indian citizens from the UAE.
Image: Hardeep Singh Puri

The first fights repatriating hundreds of thousands of Indians stuck abroad landed in India from the United Arab Emirates on Thursday.

The two flights, which landed in Kerala state – Kozhikode and Cohhin -Cochin from Abu Dhabi and Dubai on Thursday, were carrying 354 people, including nine infants.

All passengers will now undergo a mandatory 14 day quarantine.

“I’m relieved that I’m home,” a man on the flight from Abu Dhabi told AFP by telephone as he waited to disembark in Kerala state.

“People were sitting next to each other – at least the row I was sitting, we were all sitting next to each other. They are making people get out of the plane right now in shifts – first a few people left the plane and we have been asked to wait,” he continued.

Mission Vande Bharat begins.

First two flights bring home Indian citizens from the UAE.

177 passengers plus 4 infants reach Cochin from Abu Dhabi.
177 passengers plus 5 infants reach Kozhikode from Dubai.

State govt will now arrange for their mandatory 14 day quarantine.— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) May 7, 2020

Indian citizens with coveted tickets, arriving at Abu Dhabi and Dubai airports, were greeted by medics in masks, gloves and plastic aprons who took blood samples for antibody tests.

“The results came out in 10 minutes. Mine has been negative. I’m super relieved,” one 40-year-old passenger at Abu Dhabi airport told AFP.

“I’ve lost my job in the company I was working with. I’m feeling a bit weird going home – while I’m happy that I am going home there is also a sense of uncertainty.”

‘Patience and cooperation’

Delhi banned all incoming international flights in late March as it imposed one of the world’s strictest virus lockdowns, leaving vast numbers of workers and students stranded.

Some 15,000 nationals will be repatriated from 12 countries on planes and naval ships, in a mammoth exercise which saw the civil aviation ministry’s website crash Wednesday as panicked citizens rushed to register.

The consulate in Dubai said it had received almost 200,000 applications, appealing on Twitter for “patience and cooperation” as India undertakes the “massive task” of repatriation.

“We have one or two flights planned every day now for the next five or six days,” Consul General Vipul, who goes by one name, told AFP at Dubai airport.

Vipul said most of those aboard were workers who had lost their jobs, together with pregnant women, the elderly and some stranded tourists.

“Some people will be left out, it’s inevitable in this kind of situation… not everyone can be accommodated immediately,” he said.

A naval vessel is expected to arrive at Dubai’s Port Rashid. The Indian High Commission in the Maldives posted images on Twitter of one of its warships entering Male harbour ahead of Friday’s planned evacuation of some 1,000 people.

Other flights will leave Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, as well as London, San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Washington.

With AFP

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