INDIA: Through a press release on Monday, the Centre government announced that it will be facilitating the return of Indian citizens stranded abroad due to the nationwide lockdown amid COVID-19 pandemic. The process begins from May 7 and will be continued in a phased manner.

According to the government, first priority would be given to the workers in distress, elderly people, urgent medical cases, pregnant women and people with financial emergencies.

The stranded Indian citizens will be brought back homes via aircraft and naval ships and a standard operating protocol (SOP) has been created for the same. However, this facility will be provided by the Govt on a payment basis. A list of distressed citizens to be evacuated from the foreign countries is being prepared by the Indian Embassies & High Commissions.

The government has stated that the passengers will be medically screened before departure and only asymptomatic persons will be allowed to board flights. Once the citizens land, they will have to download the Arogya Setu app and will go through another round of medical screening which will be followed by a 14-day quarantine period.

The statement entails that the quarantine facility will also be payment-based and respective state governments would be responsible for the same. After 14 days, Covid-19 tests will be done and further action would be taken according to health protocols issued by the Health Ministry.

The state governments have been advised to make arrangements, including for testing, quarantine and onward movement of the returning Indians in their respective states.

The detailed information about the whole process would be soon shared by the Ministries of External Affairs and Civil Aviation on their website.

According to the sources, Indian citizens from the United Arab Emirates will be evacuated first. With nearly eight million Indians living in the Gulf countries and the impact of pandemic on the oil-driven economy of the region, the anxiety among them over their livelihood has been growing.Some of the Indians in the Gulf want to return home.

Many Indians, including those in senior positions, are stranded abroad unable to return due to non-operation of flights. The Chief Election Commissioner, Sunil Arora is among those stuck in the United States. Various state governments have also made arrangements to bring Indian citizens back home from foreign countries.

India banned the arrival of international flights from March 23. The 21-day lockdown was first announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24 in a bid to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic. It was first extended till May 3 and then again till May 17.