Massive India repatriation begins with flights from UAE

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Indian nationals gather at the Dubai International Airport before leaving the Gulf Emirate on a flight back to their country, on May 7, 2020, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic crisis. (AFP)
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Indian nationals gather at the Dubai International Airport before leaving the Gulf Emirate on a flight back to their country, on May 7, 2020, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic crisis. (AFP)
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An Indian woman checks in at the Dubai International Airport before leaving the Gulf Emirate on a flight back to her country, on May 7, 2020, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic crisis. (AFP)
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An Indian woman carries a sleeping child as she waits at the Dubai International Airport before leaving the Gulf Emirate on a flight back to her country, on May 7, 2020, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic crisis. (AFP)
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Updated 07 May 2020

Massive India repatriation begins with flights from UAE

  • The consulate in Dubai said that it alone had received almost 200,000 applications, appealing on Twitter for “patience and cooperation”
  • Indian citizens with coveted tickets, arriving at Abu Dhabi and Dubai airports, were greeted by medics who took blood samples for antibody tests

DUBAI: The first wave of a massive exercise to repatriate hundreds of thousands of Indians stuck abroad began Thursday, with two flights departing from the United Arab Emirates.
India banned all incoming international flights in late March as it imposed one of the world’s strictest virus lockdowns, leaving vast numbers of workers and students stranded.
Some 15,000 nationals will be repatriated from 12 countries on planes and naval ships, in a mammoth exercise which saw the civil aviation ministry’s website crash Wednesday as panicked citizens rushed to register.
Two warships have steamed to the Maldives and another to the UAE — home to a 3.3-million-strong Indian community which makes up some 30 percent of the Gulf state’s population.
The consulate in Dubai said that it alone had received almost 200,000 applications, appealing on Twitter for “patience and cooperation” as India undertakes the “massive task” of repatriation.
Indian citizens with coveted tickets, arriving at Abu Dhabi and Dubai airports, were greeted by medics in masks, gloves and plastic aprons who took blood samples for antibody tests.
“The results came out in 10 minutes. Mine has been negative. I’m super relieved,” one 40-year-old passenger at Abu Dhabi airport told AFP.
“I’ve lost my job in the company I was working with. I’m feeling a bit weird going home — while I’m happy that I am going home there is also a sense of uncertainty.”
“We have one or two flights planned every day now for the next five or six days,” Consul General Vipul told AFP at Dubai airport.
He said most of those aboard were workers who had lost their jobs, together with pregnant women, the elderly and some stranded tourists.
“Some people will be left out, it’s inevitable in this kind of situation...not everyone can be accommodated immediately,” he said.
The two flights from the UAE — both destined for the southern Indian state of Kerala — will transport just 354 people.
A flight planned for Thursday from Qatar has been postponed until the weekend.
According to Indian media reports, delays have been triggered by the need to test air crew for coronavirus.
A naval vessel is expected to arrive at Dubai’s Port Rashid. The Indian High Commission in the Maldives posted images on Twitter of one of its warships entering Male harbor ahead of Friday’s planned evacuation of some 1,000 people.
Other flights will leave Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, as well as London in the United Kingdom and San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Washington in the US.
But frustrations have mounted over the slow pace of the exercise, as well as the fact that evacuees will have to pay for their passage home and spend two weeks in quarantine on arrival.
“There are so many people who have lost their jobs here — they’re literally going hungry,” Yasin, a 50-year-old restaurant manager who is now out of a job, told AFP as he checked in for his flight.
“And now the government has asked for people to pay for the tickets. I sincerely want to request the government to waive that,” he said.
“They should protect their people. People do not have money to survive here, paying for flights is not possible at all.”
Those who haven’t managed to get a ticket home have voiced their frustrations in a torrent of posts on social media, while some turned up to try their luck.
Ajith, a 43-year-old IT engineer whose mother passed away two days ago, waited anxiously at Dubai airport, checking with the official who held the all-important waiting list for the first flight out.
“My mother was old and had medical issues... there is no one in India to take care of things, so I made an emergency request to the consulate,” he told AFP, before finally managing to secure a seat on the plane.


LIVE: Middle East returns to normal life amid strict COVID-19 measures 

Updated 11 min 1 sec ago

LIVE: Middle East returns to normal life amid strict COVID-19 measures 

DUBAI: Efforts to return life gradually back to some kind of normality in parts of the Middle East continue, as governments get ready to reopen borders and airlines take bookings for flights. 
Tunisia said it will open its sea, land and air borders on June 27 in the hope of rescuing its tourism industry as the coronavirus pandemic comes under control.
Emirates airline also announced that it was taking bookings for flights from Dubai to 12 Arab countries from the start of July. Emirates began operating scheduled flight services to nine destinations around the world from May 21, including London Heathrow, Frankfurt, Paris, Milan, Madrid, Chicago, Toronto, Sydney and Melbourne.
Meanwhile, Lebanon’s commercial complexes, hotels, cafes and museums reopened their doors to customers on Monday after closing for two-and-a-half months. 

June 2, Tuesday (GMT Times)

09:20 - The number of coronavirus deaths in Britain is close to 50,000, Reuters reported.

09:07 – Hong Kong will extend restrictions on foreign visitors by another three months and an eight-person limit on group gatherings by two weeks, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said on Tuesday.
Both measures were due to expire later in June.
Travellers to Hong Kong need to undergo a mandatory 14 day quarantine period.

08:45 – 12,739 people died from coronavirus in England and Wales as of May 22, the Office for National Statistics said.

08:16 – Senegal has postponed the restart of schools until further notice after several teachers tested positive for the new coronavirus, the education ministry said late on Monday.

07:51 – Russia has confirmed 8,863 coronavirus cases and 182 deaths in the past 24 hours.

07:02 – A Wuhan doctor who worked with coronavirus whistleblower Li Wenliang died of the virus last week, state media reported Tuesday, becoming China's first COVID-19 fatality in weeks.
07:00 Paris gets some of its pre-lockdown life back as cafes and restaurants partially reopen Tuesday.
06:51 – The global coronavirus death toll has topped 375,000, according to AFP tally.

06:45 – The first Rohingya refugee died from coronavirus in Bangladesh, an official said.

05:59Egypt has sanitized prisons and carried out tests on prisoners across the country after banning visits to help curb the spread of coronavirus, local daily Egypt Today reported.

05:50 – A cluster of nine coronavirus cases raised concerns in Hong Kong over renewed local transmission in a city that has been one of the most successful in keeping the pandemic under control. 

05:18 – The United States on Monday recorded 743 new coronavirus deaths in 24 hours, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, bringing its total to 105,099 since the global pandemic began.