COVID-19: India may bring home stranded Indians

Coronavirus: India may bring home citizens stranded in transit in Europe

India already restricted entry of Indian nationals as well as of foreign citizens from Europe, in view of the rapid spread of the pandemic across the continent. (Credit: PTI Photo)

India may make some special arrangements to bring home its nationals stranded in transit in airports in Paris, Frankfurt, London and Amsterdam within the next few days, but its citizens living or visiting in Europe are unlikely to be evacuated as long as the travel curbs imposed in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic remains in place.  

After a KLM Royal Dutch Airlines plane on Sunday brought to New Delhi the 117 stranded Indians from Amsterdam, New Delhi has made it clear that no other passenger aircraft would now take off from Schiphol Airport in the capital of the Netherlands for any destination in India till March 31 in view of the pandemic.

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“All international flights to India have been stopped since March 22 (Sunday). All Indian nationals in (the Netherlands) are requested to stay in their places of residence & (and) follow the instructions issued by local health authorities,” the Embassy of India in Amsterdam posted on Twitter.

India’s diplomatic missions in France and United Kingdom too posted similar statements on Twitter – ostensibly to drive home the point that Indian nationals currently living or visiting any foreign country should stay put wherever they were, instead of trying to return home, till the curbs imposed in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic were not withdrawn.  

Also Read: Coronavirus India update: State-wise total number of confirmed cases, deaths

The ban on arrival of passengers onboard any international commercial aircraft to any airport in India scheduled to come in force from 1:30 a.m. (Indian Standard Time) on Monday. Hence, no aircraft of any international airlines took off from any airport around the world for any destination in India after 5:30 a.m. (Indian Standard Time) on Sunday.

The Government is “fully aware” that many Indian might be returning from abroad and “would be feeling inconvenienced” due to the curbs imposed to contain the pandemic in the country, a source in New Delhi said, adding: “The Government is doing its best. Officers and employees are putting in the hours and days of work to make their safe return possible.”

Also Read: Coronavirus: Indian Railways suspends all passenger services from March 22 midnight to March 31 midnight

New Delhi indicated that might continue to either make special arrangements to evacuate the citizens stranded in transit in airports in Europe or relax the restrictions to allow commercial aircraft to bring them home even after Monday.

Sources, however, told the DH that while special arrangement could be made to bring home the Indians, who were traveling from US, Mexico, Canada and Brazil and got stranded in transit in Paris, Amsterdam, London and Frankfurt airports, the ones, who were living or visiting in Europe, would not be brought back home immediately. The evacuation of 263 Indian nationals from Italy by an Air India aircraft on Sunday was the latest mission New Delhi conducted to bring home the citizens of the country from Covid-19 hotspot in Europe and no such mission is likely to be carried out till March 31, added the sources.  

A KLM Royal Dutch Airlines aircraft earlier on Sunday flew from Amsterdam to New Delhi with 117 Indian transit passengers from the United States, Mexico and Canada onboard. The aircraft had been scheduled to land in New Delhi early on Saturday, but had returned to Schiphol Airport after it had been denied permission to land at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in the national capital of India – apparently due to confusion over implementation of the travel restrictions imposed to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Embassy of India in Amsterdam got in touch with Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Civil Aviation and coordinated with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines as well as the Government of the Netherlands to get the flight rescheduled. The aircraft finally returned to New Delhi on Sunday.

India already restricted entry of Indian nationals as well as of foreign citizens from Europe, in view of the rapid spread of the pandemic across the continent.

New Delhi also announced that no passenger would be allowed to disembark from a scheduled international commercial passenger aircraft in any airport in India after 1:30 a.m. on Monday till the same time on March 31.

“Currently no flights operate from Schiphol Airport to any destination in India. There are also no plans for any special flights. The Government of India has ordered all airlines not to pick up any passenger after March 18 from Europe,” the Embassy of India in Amsterdam added in another post on Twitter on Sunday.

The Embassy of India in Paris too advised Indian nationals against transiting through France to return home. “All Indian nationals are advised not to transit through France, especially (through) the Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris. There is no flight connection currently available from France to India. India has currently prohibited landing of all international flights.”

“Since no commercial flight would be allowed to carry passengers from France to India henceforth, till the temporary travel restrictions are in place, all Indian nationals are requested to stay safe and isolated within their residential premises and follow the advisory of the French Government,” it stated in another tweet.

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