Vande Bharat II: Six flights land in Kerala with returnees

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File Photo: IANS
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Kochi/Thiruvananthapuram: Six flights, part of the second phase of India's massive repatriation drive dubbed Vande Bharat Mission, arrived in Kerala on Saturday bringing over 1,000 Indians stranded in various countries in the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak.

The flights from Singapore, United Arab Emirates and Oman carried around 1,026 passengers to the four airports in Kerala on Saturday.

Two flights from Singapore Muscat landed at the Cochin International Airport while two from Muscat and Dubai arrived at the Trivandrum International Airport. A flight from Dubai landed at the Calicut International Airport while another from Abu Dhabi arrived at the Kannur International Airport. Each flight had 177 passengers on board.

On Friday, three flights from Bahrain, Oman and UAE respectively had brought home over 500 Keralites.

All scheduled commercial passenger flights have been suspended in India since March 25 when the Modi government imposed a lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Saturday said that the Vande Bharat Mission, which began on May 7, would be able to bring a total 50,000 Indians, who have been stranded abroad, home by the end of this month.

Between May 7 and May 21, around 23,000 Indians have been repatriated through flights operated by Air India and its subsidiary Air India Express under this mission. Passengers have to pay money to book a seat on any repatriation flight being operated under the Vande Bharat Mission.

The second phase of the mission, which was supposed to conclude Friday, has been extended to June 13 and the extended phase will cover 47 countries.

As per the government's policy for evacuation, Indians having "compelling reasons" to return like pregnant women, elderly people, students and those facing the prospect of deportation are being brought back home.

Puri said India is planning to bring stranded Indians from Sri Lanka through ships or flights under the Vande Bharat Mission.

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