Mumbai: The wait to return home for thousands of Indians stranded abroad has become slightly longer after the government’s plan to send 64 flights to 12 countries was deferred on Wednesday by 48 hours.
Confirming the development, BMC officials said that they are yet to get the details of flights and travellers. A total of seven flights carrying around 1,900 Indians stranded abroad were expected to land at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport between Thursday and Sunday.
However, sources said that the first flights are now likely to arrive on May 9. The entry of such a large number of people marks a new challenge for Mumbai in its war against COVID-19, as the returnees will have to be screened and placed under institutional quarantine or admitted to hospitals, if they show symptoms.
According to Jayshree Bhoj, Additional Municipal Commissioner of BMC, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has informed the civic body that they will be informed in a day or two, prior to the boarding of passengers who are scheduled to arrive in Mumbai. "There was a meeting over video conferencing with MEA officials.
We were clearly told that they will inform us about airlift operations a day or two in advance. Also, details of the flights arriving in Mumbai and the list of passengers on board will be given to us. However, we have not received any details so far. The flights have been delayed," Bhoj confirmed.
The MEA will give the travellers two days’ notice with the schedule (day, place, and time of arrival) of the incoming flight on its website. Onboard, the health protocol announced by the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) will be applicable.
P Velrasu, BMC's Additional Municipal Commissioner (Projects), said, “Yes, the flights have been delayed. Meanwhile, we are gearing up to get facilities ready for quarantining passengers who arrive. These passengers will be screened before boarding the flight, and they will be screened again after reaching Mumbai Airport."
Elaborating on the quarantining process, Bhoj said, "It is difficult to say how many people will reach Mumbai, as they will be screened before boarding the flight. However, tentatively 1900 people are on the list.
Mostly we are not expecting anyone to be symptomatic on arrival, as those with symptoms will not be allowed to board the flight. Only those tested negatives will be allowed to board to ensure the safety of other passengers.” “Those found asymptomatic will be sent to institutional isolation centres.
Those from other districts will be allowed to report to the district headquarters where they belong, and it will then be the responsibility of those districts to quarantine these passengers.
For passengers belonging to the MMR region, they will be quarantined in hotels on payment basis. These passengers were already given consent forms where they have agreed to pay for the flights, for quarantine facilities etc,” Bhoj added.