The first naval ship carrying nearly 700 Indian evacuees from Maldives arrived at Cochin Port on Sunday as another vessel reached Male, while about two dozen flights were operated by Air India on the fourth day of Vande Bharat Mission to bring back citizens stranded abroad due to the coronavirus lockdown.
A Port Trust statement said that 698 people evacuated from the Maldives arrived at 9:30 am by 'INS Jalashwa' of the Indian Navy. Among the passengers were 14 children below 10 years of age and 19 pregnant women.
While 440 people were from Kerala, 187 were from Tamil Nadu and four from Delhi. The rest are from 17 other states and Union Territories.
SEE: INS Jalashwa reaches Kochi
Concurrently, INS Magar on Sunday reached Male, under the exercise christened Operation Samudra Setu, to bring nearly 200 more stranded Indian nationals from the Maldives, the Indian Navy said.
Passengers showing COVID-19 symptoms were disembarked first from INS Jalashwa, followed by others in small groups, district-wise, a Port Trust official said, adding the baggage was also disinfected.
Customs and Immigration procedures were carried out inside the terminal, where arrangements were made for distribution of SIM cards by BSNL and installation of Aarogya Setu in mobile phones of passengers, the official said.
Arrangements for onward travel to hospitals or institutional quarantine centres and home quarantine were ensured by the state government by deploying ambulances, state transport buses and taxis, the official said.
As many as 572 Indians reached Mumbai in two Air India flights from London and Singapore on Sunday morning.
A total of 329 people who were stranded in the United Kingdom arrived in the first flight from the country.
While passengers belonging to Mumbai were kept under mandatory institutional quarantine in hotels near the airport, those hailing from other cities were taken to their respective places where they will be kept in isolation in hotels taken over for the purpose, a Maharashtra government official said.
The first Air India flight to evacuate Indians from the US took off from San Francisco on Saturday to Mumbai and Hyderabad and will reach on Monday morning.
From May 9, Air India has scheduled seven non-scheduled commercial flights from the US to India facilitating the return of Indian nationals, who could not travel due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Air India flight from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey is flying on Sunday.
Another flight from Newark will fly on May 14 to Delhi and Hyderabad. All passengers will be required to undergo medical screening before boarding the flight and only asymptomatic passengers will be allowed to travel.
All passengers on arrival in India will be medically screened and would have to download and register the Aarogya Setu app.
Further, all passengers will need to undergo a 14-day mandatory quarantine on arrival in India in institutional facilities on payment basis as per the protocols framed by Government of India.
SEE: Pregnant woman onboard INS Jalashwa thanks Indian Navy for evacuating her from Maldives
Highly placed sources in the Indian Consulate in New York said that it "has been a relentless and non-stop work" to coordinate the repatriation exercise and authorities "are going out of their way to make sure not even one seat on the flight goes vacant" since a large number of Indians are stranded in the US due to various reasons and they are "desperate" to go home.
Priority is being given to stranded passengers, terminally-ill patients, passengers with medical concerns and students.
The sources said that while flights from New Jersey were only supposed to take passengers from states that fall under the jurisdiction of the Consulate in New York, special arrangements have been made to ferry four terminally-ill patients from Houston.
Apart from the two flights from New Jersey, two flights have been scheduled from Chicago on May 11 (to Mumbai and Chennai) and May 15 (Delhi and Hyderabad).
The solo flight from Washington DC on May 12 will fly to Delhi and Hyderabad.
The first phase of the mission to evacuate stranded Indian started on May 7 and will conclude on May 15. A total of 64 flights carrying approximately 15,000 returnees from 12 countries, including Gulf nations, Malaysia, the UK and the US, are expected to land at 14 airports across India during the period.
The Air India flights are simultaneously ferrying stranded foreigners to their countries.
In the second phase of the evacuation, Indians stranded in other countries in central Asia and Europe like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Germany, Spain and Thailand will be brought back from May 15.
According to the government's policy for evacuation, Indians with "compelling reasons" to return such as pregnant women, elderly people, students and those facing the prospect of deportation are being brought back home.
The 67,833 people who have registered by Friday and mapped flights, included 22,470 students, 15,815 migrant workers, 9,250 people facing expiry of visas and 5,531 who are seeking evacuation on the ground of medical emergency, the sources said.
SEE: 243 Indians arrive in Mumbai from Singapore via special flight
The people registered for evacuation also included 4,147 stranded tourists, 3,041 pregnant women and the elderly and 1,112 Indians who want to return due to death of family members.
Kerala top the list of state-wise break-up of repatriation requests with 25,246, followed by 6,617 from Tamil Nadu and 4,341 from Maharashtra. A total of 3,715 people from Uttar Pradesh requested for evacuation, 3,320 from Rajasthan, 2,796 from Telangana and, 2,786 from Karnataka, sources said.
The ministry of external affairs has developed an online platform on which requests received by Indian missions from Indian nationals wishing to return are regularly being uploaded.
In the first phase of the evacuation, a total number of 27 flights are bringing bring back Indians from the Gulf region. This included 11 flights from the United Arab Emirates, five from Saudi Arab, five from Kuwait, and two each from Bahrain, Qatar and Oman, the sources said.
From the neighbourhood, seven flights are scheduled to bring back Indians from Bangladesh carrying passengers bound for Srinagar, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai.
Similarly, 14 flights will evacuate stranded Indians from South-East Asia. Of these flights, five each are from Singapore and the Philippines and four from Malaysia, they said.