318 return in second airlift from virus-hit India

Local | Mandy Zheng 5 Jun 2020

Some 318 Hongkongers, including mothers-to-be, children and those with medical issues, returned from India on a charter flight yesterday morning.

The group, previously stranded in Mumbai and its surrounding areas, arrived at Hong Kong International Airport after departing on Wednesday morning India time.

Many adult passengers could be seen taking care of children as they disembarked from the plane, while several elderly required assistance from airport staffers as they climbed down the towable passenger stairs.

Arranged by the Hong Kong government, the Air India flight mainly served people with special needs, such as who who are sick or pregnant, and their family members.

Upon arrival, returnees were required to provide deep throat saliva samples at the AsiaWorld-Expo to test for Covid-19.

They were then transferred directly to the Chun Yeung Estate in Fo Tan for a 14-day compulsory quarantine.

The immigration department said up till Monday, it had contacted about 4,800 citizens stranded in India, who have been unable to come home due to the country's lockdown measures.

India has suspended all international flights since March 24 in a bid to combat the coronavirus epidemic, although domestic flights have already been resumed since May 25.

The Indian government decided at the end of May to extend the nationwide lockdown, the fifth time for them to do so, until June 30.

Over 207,000 infections have been recorded in India as of yesterday, with nearly half of them reported in the past two weeks. Some 5,815 people have succumbed to coronavirus infections. This is the second batch of Hongkongers returning from India on a charter flight, with the airfare borne by passengers themselves. The first group comprising 249 people landed on May 18, with those airlifted paying HK$3,800 per seat.

The government has been arranging special flights to mainland China, Japan, Peru, Morocco, Pakistan, India and Nepal to retrieve residents since February.

Fares for Pakistan returnees was as high as over HK$30,000 per seat, with 65 people taking the flight which came back to Hong Kong on April 5.

For 319 residents coming back from Pakistan on April 30, the flight cost them only HK$6,000.

Those who were stranded in Hubei province, as well as those aboard the Diamond Prince cruise ship in Japan, flew back home between February and March without paying for the flights.

mandy.zheng@singtaonewscorp.com

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