First flight repatriates 181 Indian nationals

Muscat: The first repatriation flight IX 442 for Indian nationals operated by Air India Express carried 181 passengers including four infants, 48 pregnant women and elderly, and 77 others who required medical care for various conditions to Kochi on Saturday.

Around 30 Indian nationals on visit to Oman whose visas got over during the Covid-19 lockdown were given free extension till Saturday with no additional charges. Also there were mortal remains of 2 Indian nationals who died in Oman.

The flight touched the Nedumbassery International Airport at 8.50pm (local time) where officials welcomed them and were given necessary medical aid and check-ups followed by quarantine for a week.

“We are immensely thankful to the Omani authorities, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Royal Oman Police (ROP), the Oman Airports Authority, the Muscat Airports, and all those who made the repatriation of these people possible on compelling grounds,” Munu Mahawer, Indian Ambassador to the Sultanate told the Observer.

“I was stuck during the Covid-19 period here even as the condition of my mother, who is back-home suffering from last stage of cancer, got worsened. Now that I’m flying, I’ll be able to be with my mother in her last few days,” Shibi, a nurse who was one of the forefront warriors of the fight against Covid-19 in Oman told the Observer, and thanked all officials, NGOs and media for the return journey.

“I had a disk prolapse recently and was struggling all alone and thanks to Omani and Indian authorities to have facilitated by travel,” Shaik Rafeeq, a private sector employee on a wheelchair said.

“My parents came on a visit to see us but their visas were over during the Covid-19 period. Now they are travelling back with no fines, Thanks to the authorities,” Mohammed Afsal, a sales manager from Kochi told the Observer.

There were a brief medical kit being distributed to these passengers by workers of KMCC and Indian Embassy

“We are glad to be providing an immediate medical and refreshment kit to these repatriates as it will be very handy for them to make use of gloves, sanitiser and the like,” Ahmed Rayees, President of the organisation said.

This flight service will be followed by another flight on Tuesday to Chennai, the capital city of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, as part of the first phase of repatriation.

“We will be operating more flights in subsequent phases covering multiple destinations and passengers for repatriation flights are being selected from those who have registered with the Embassy. Priority is being given to persons requiring travel for urgent compelling reasons,” Mahawer added.

This is independent India’s largest repatriation mission to bring back its citizens stranded abroad due to Covid-19 pandemic. India will be getting back 192,000 people in the first phase of the mammoth exercise with the focus on the Gulf.

“We urge everyone who have registered with the Embassy to be patient and wait for further announcements. The Embassy officials will contact the short-listed travellers and we are available to extend any assistance required by the Indian community members in Oman,” the Ambassador further said.

According to diplomatic sources, as many as 15,000 Indian nationals will be brought back from across the world to the country in 64 flights in the first week of the repatriation process. Of the 64 flights, 25 will be dedicated to bring back expat Indians in the Gulf where nearly 300,000 people have registered for repatriation.