Covid-19: Air India flies Canadian citizens home

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Our Bureau

Toronto

The first Air India aircraft carrying Canadians of Indian origin back to the country landed at Vancouver International Airport on Tuesday afternoon. The flight will return to New Delhi on Wednesday night as the first-ever rescue mission for Indians stranded in Canada due to the Covid-19 pandemic begins.

Describing the flight’s arrival as a “historic first”, India’s Consulate in Vancouver in British Columbia said the repatriation flight will commence on May 20.

India’s High Commissioner to Ottawa Ajay Bisaria tweeted that he was “delighted” to welcome the first Vande Bharat Mission flight to Canada. He added that the flight was full as it also brought Indo-Canadians home. “Hope to bring every citizen home in these and future flights,” he said.

Family members of some of those who arrived in Vancouver thanked the Indian Government and Air India for the flight. Gobind Shergill tweeted that his wife had arrived, and that she was “very impressed by all the safety measures taken by all authorities.”

The Vande Bharat Mission is the Indian government’s repatriation programme to bring back Indians stranded abroad due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

There are nearly three lakh Indians in Canada, according to estimates, and the five Air India flights that have been scheduled from Vancouver and Toronto will take more than 1400 of those with “compelling” reasons back to India. The flight from Vancouver will cover Delhi and Amritsar. It will be followed by flights from Toronto on May 21 and 22 that will take passengers to Delhi and Amritsar, and Bengaluru and Hyderabad, respectively. On May 24, another flight will depart from Vancouver for Bengaluru and Hyderabad, while the last planned trip, from Toronto on May 25, will go to Ahmedabad and Jaipur.

Passengers arriving in Canada are expected to enter mandatory self-isolation for a period of 14 days, and those returning to India will also be placed in quarantine for that period and then tested for Covid-19.

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