Warship from Maldives with virus evacuees arrives in India

Kerala police personnel watch and take photos as the ‘INS Jalashwa’ ship enters the Cochin port carrying Indian citizens who were stranded in Maldives due to the Covid-19, in Kochi in the south Indian state of Kerala May 10, 2020. — AFP pic
Kerala police personnel watch and take photos as the ‘INS Jalashwa’ ship enters the Cochin port carrying Indian citizens who were stranded in Maldives due to the Covid-19, in Kochi in the south Indian state of Kerala May 10, 2020. — AFP pic

KOCHI, May 10 — A navy ship carrying evacuees from the Maldives arrived in India today as part of a massive effort to bring home hundreds of thousands of nationals stranded overseas due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Workers and students were unable to return home after India banned all incoming international flights in late March as part of the world’s biggest lockdown to combat the spread of the deadly infectious disease.

The warship INS Jalashwa carrying 698 Indians from the Maldives capital of Male arrived at Cochin port on the southwestern coast of India this morning.

It followed the arrival of 326 Indians from London early today at Mumbai’s international airport.

Another warship, INS Magar, is expected to arrive at Male Sunday to repatriate more stranded Indians. Around 4,000 of the 27,000 Indians living in the Maldives have registered to be taken home.

The naval efforts are part of an initial operation to repatriate almost 15,000 Indians from 12 countries.

The repatriation process is expected to be expanded in the next few weeks to include more stranded citizens in other European and Southeast Asian nations, local media reported.

On Thursday, the first two repatriation flights brought back 354 Indians from Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. They then went into quarantine centres.

Two returnees have since tested positive for coronavirus, Kerala state Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said late yesterday.

He added that it was “a warning to those coming back from abroad and for other states to be on the alert”.

India has started to ease its lockdown but domestic and international flights remain grounded.

Authorities today reported 62,939 cases with 2,109 deaths, with recent days having seen record jumps. — AFP

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