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Govt issues SOP for return of Indians stranded abroad

Passengers arriving through land borders will have to undergo the same protocol and only those who are asymptomatic will be enabled to cross the border into India

Prime News, Nation, (New Delhi), May 6:-The government on Tuesday issued a standard operating protocol (SOP) for the return of Indians stranded abroad as well as NRIs and others who are stuck in India and wish to travel to international destinations for urgent reasons.

In an order, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said priority will be given for return to India to compelling cases in distress, including migrant workers, labourers who have been laid off and those faced with expiry of short term visas.

Persons with medical emergencies, pregnant women, elderly, those required to return to India due to death of a family member, and students will also be given preference, the home ministry said.

The cost of travel will be borne by such travellers.

Based on the registrations received, the Ministry of External Affairs will prepare flight or ship wise database of all such travellers, including details such as name, age, gender, mobile phone number, place of residence, place of final destination, and information on RT-PCR test taken and its result.

This data will be shared by MEA with the respective state and union territories in advance.

The MEA will designate state and UT wise nodal officers who will co-ordinate with the nodal officers designated for this purpose by the respective states, the home ministry said.

The MEA will display with at least two days notice the schedule (day, place and time of arrival) of the incoming flight or ship on their online digital platform.

The home ministry said as per information available, many Indians who had travelled to different countries before the lockdown, which was first imposed with effect from March 25, for various purposes such as employment, studies, internships, tourism, business are stranded abroad.

“Due to their prolonged stay abroad, they are facing distress and are desirous of returning to India urgently,” Bhalla said while issuing the SOP.

According to the SOP, all Indians wish to return to India will register themselves with Indian Missions in the country where they are stranded, along with necessary details as prescribed by MEA.

They will travel to India by non-scheduled commercial flights to be arranged by the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MOCA) and naval ships to be arranged by the Department Of Military Affairs (DMA).

Only those crew and staff who are tested COVID-19 negative will be allowed to operate these flights and ships.

Before boarding, all travellers shall give an undertaking that they would undergo mandatory institutional quarantine for a minimum of 14 days on arrival in India, at their own cost. All travellers will also be required to give an undertaking that they are making the journey at their own risk.

At the time of boarding the flight or ship, the MEA will facilitate thermal screening as per health protocol. Only asymptomatic travellers would be allowed to board.

Passengers arriving through land borders will have to undergo the same protocol and only those who are asymptomatic will be enabled to cross the border into India.

Self-declaration form (with health and personal details) in duplicate will be filled in advance by all passengers coming from any point of entry – land, sea or airports – and a copy of the same will be given to Health and Immigration officials present at the airport, seaport or landport.

While on board the flight or ship, the health protocol of MoCA and DMA will be strictly followed.

This would include wearing of masks, environmental hygiene, respiratory hygiene, hand hygiene to be observed by airline or ship staff, crew and all passengers.

On arrival, thermal screening, as per health protocol, would be carried out. All passengers shall be asked to download ‘ArogyaSetu’ app on their mobile devices.

Passengers found to be symptomatic during screening shall be immediately taken to a medical facility as per the health protocol. The remaining passengers shall be taken to suitable institutional quarantine facilities, to be arranged by the respective state and UT governments.

These passengers shall be kept under institutional quarantine for a minimum period of 14 days. If they test negative after 14 days, they will be allowed to go home and will undertake self-monitoring of their health for 14 more days as per protocol.

The remaining persons will be shifted to the medical facility by the state and UT government.

The home ministry said there are similar SOPs for persons stranded in India who want to travel abroad urgently.

Such persons will apply to MoCA or an agency designated by MoCA for this purpose, along with necessary details, including the places of departure and arrival as prescribed by MoCA.

Only those persons shall be allowed to travel to the destination countries who are citizens of that country, hold visa of at least one year duration of that country and green card or are OCI card holder. In cases of medical emergency or death in the family, Indian nationals holding six months visa can also be allowed to go.

Before their tickets are confirmed, MoCA will ensure that the destination country allows entry of such persons in that country. The conditions, if any, imposed by the destination country will have to be fulfilled by the person intending to travel.

The travel from India shall be by non-scheduled commercial flights that are being arranged by MoCA for bringing back stranded Indian nationals from abroad. The cost of travel, as specified by MOCA, will be borne by such travellers.

-(NAV, Inputs: Agencies)

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