As India began to evacuate its stranded citizens from the Gulf nations due to COVID-19 linked travel restrictions, the country's envoys have assured the worried expatriates that there would be more flights in the coming days for people with compelling reasons to return home.
India began evacuating stranded nationals in Oman and Saudi Arabia on Saturday under the 'Vande Bharat' mission.
The first of such flights began operating from May 7 from Abu Dhani and Dubai in the UAE, taking home 363 Indians to Kerala.
The Riyadh to Kozhikode repatriation flight carried 152 passengers, Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ausaf Sayeed said on Friday.
"The composition of the flight was basically distressed workers who lost their jobs (due to the coronavirus outbreak). It also included several medical cases needing attention immediately and a large number of pregnant nurses from Kerala," Sayeed said.
The Indian mission in Saudi Arabia is arranging four flights next week to repatriate Indians - including a Riyadh to Delhi flight on Monday.
A Damam to Kochi route and two flights from Jeddah to Kerala have been planned for later this week.
For those people in Saudi Arabia from different states of India like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh Bihar, Rajasthan, Telangana different flights are being planned for the week after from May 16 onwards.
Ambassador Sayeed said Indians who want to be repatriated should register on the Indian embassy website, assuring all stranded persons that they will be accommodated in earliest possible flights.
"In the meantime, it is very important that all of you stay calm and keep your morale high and do not get panicky," said Sayeed.
The Muscat to Kochi flight left with 181 Indians on board on Saturday.
Indian Ambassador to Oman Munu Mahawar thanked the ministries of home, civil aviation, health and external affairs for the smooth repatriation process.
He further thanked the Government of Oman and its Royal Police.
"In the coming days, we will be organising more flights, and I am sure all Indian nationals who wish to return to India for compelling reasons will be able to travel back," said Mahawar.
Meanwhile, an Air India flight from Sharjah in the UAE left for Lucknow on Saturday with 182 passengers on board. The flight comprised mostly nurses.
This was the second round of Indian nationals being repatriated from the Gulf kingdom. On Thursday, two special flights from the UAE carrying a total of 363 Indian nationals, including nine infants, left for Kerala.
On Friday, almost 200 workers, 37 pregnant women and 42 people with medical issues travelled to Chennai on two flights from the UAE.
India's Ambassador to the UAE Pavan Kapoor was personally present at the Abu Dhabi airport talking to passengers taking the flights to India.
The Consul General in Dubai Vipul, who is leading the repatriation efforts in Dubai, said, the mission was ready to help the Indian nationals who are desperate to return to the country.
Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, India is conducting its biggest ever repatriation exercise named 'Vande Bharat' Mission to bring back stranded Indians from abroad, including from the US, the UAE and the UK.
Nearly 15,000 Indians are expected to return on special Air India flights from 12 countries in the coming days.