From Krishnan Nayar
NEW DELHI, 18th July, 2020 (WAM) — One hundred and twenty additional flights are being added to India’s Coronavirus-related repatriation mission until 31st July, according to Anurag Srivastava, the Spokesperson of India’s Ministry of External Affairs, MEA.
Briefing the media on the progress of Phase IV of the mission, known as “Vande Bharat,” Srivastava said the additional flights will from GCC countries, Malaysia, Singapore, the UK, Europe, Kyrgyzstan, and Ukraine.
They will meet the continuing demand for repatriation of Indians from these countries in view of the Coronavirus pandemic. “With this augmentation, this phase from 15th July till the end of this month now has 751 international flights, catering to 34 airports in India.”
The international arrivals will be supplemented by feeder flights from international airports to domestic airports different states, taking the total to 926 flights in the fourth phase. He said 687,467 Indian nationals have returned under the Vande Bharat mission as of this week.
Additionally, Srivastava said “air bubbles” with several countries, in addition to the ongoing ones, are under negotiation. These will include some countries in the GCC area. “This would help movement of people between these countries and India till international air travel is restored to normalcy.”
Air bubbles are flights outside of scheduled commercial services, which are being negotiated by India worldwide in view of the extraordinary circumstances created by COVID-19. The Spokesperson hinted that there may be no Vande Bharat mission Phase V because he used the words “if any” about the next phase.
This is because a vast majority of Indian citizens, who had registered their interest with Indian embassies across the world in 137 countries would have returned home on repatriation flights by 31st July.