Vande Bharat Mission: From the hotspot of COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil, young diplomats ensure the departure of Indians

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Updated: Jun 10, 2020 8:13 PM

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in close coordination with the Indian Missions/Posts and other related ministries and state agencies have been meticulously planning their repatriation.

Vande Bharat Mission, COVID-19 pandemic, covid pandemic in brazil, departure of Indians, Ministry of External Affairs, MSC Cruises, repatriation flight, latest news on vande bharat missionThe Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in close coordination with the Indian Missions/Posts and other related ministries and state agencies have been meticulously planning their repatriation. (Photo Credit: Indian Consulate, Sao Paulo)

With Phase II of the Vande Bharat Mission nearing the end, stranded Indians from various countries including Brazil have come back home. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in close coordination with the Indian Missions/Posts and other related ministries and state agencies have been meticulously planning their repatriation.

As has been reported earlier, while the repatriation process started with the national aircraft carrier Air India and Indian Naval ships were also sent out to get back stranded India, the government has recently given approval for the non-scheduled commercial flights, chartered flights as well as air ambulances to fly in.

Talking to Financial Express Online, India’s Consul General in Sao Paulo, Amit Kumar Mishra said, “Embassy of India, Brasilia and Consulate General of India, Sao Paulo has facilitated the return of 696 Indians, who were stranded in Brazil due to Covid-19 related travel restrictions. The three repatriation flights were from Sao Paulo to Goa and Mumbai (2 flights).”

According to Mishra, “511 seafarers from two companies, MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises returned to India on two chartered flights on 4 June (Sao Paulo-Mumbai) & 5 June (Sao Paulo-Goa). These seafarers were stranded onboard 5 ships: MSC Seaview, MSC Poesia, MSC Musica, MSC Sinfonia and Costa Fascinosa, stranded at Santos port (Sao Paulo) and Salvador.”

How did they fly back?

“Qatar Airways chartered flights were arranged by MSC Cruises, and were scheduled after the Government allowed permission for chartered flights repatriating stranded seafarers. Embassy in Brasilia ensured expedited approvals for these flights and Consulate staff facilitated departure formalities for the seafarers at the Sao Paulo airport,” said Mishra.

Other than seafarers, third and final batch of 185 Indians left for India on 8 June 2020. “The Ethiopian Airlines chartered flight (Sao Paulo-Mumbai) was facilitated by the Embassy in Brasilia on payment basis, and flight tickets were purchased by individuals directly from the airlines. The Indians leaving on this flight included short term visa holders, tourists, business persons, professionals, and some rotary exchange students.”

Embassy team led by Charge d’ Affaires S Koventhan travelled from Brasilia to Sao Paulo to ensure that departure of this group from Sao Paulo went smooth. Consulate staff facilitated departure formalities at Sao Paulo airport as with the previous flights.

How did the Indian embassy help the stranded Indians?

“Over the last two months, Consular staff of the Consulate was in contact with stranded seafarers and other Indians on a daily basis. The embassy had set up a situation room to respond to COVID-19 related queries, and 24-hour helplines were maintained by both Consulate and Embassy,” Consul General in Sao Paulo added.

For all repatriation flights, a facilitation desk was set up by the Consulate officials at Sao Paulo airport to assist Indian nationals, help resolve any immigration-related issues, and to brief them on quarantine procedures in India. “We visited the airport to oversee arrangements for all three flights. The assistance by Consulate was extended despite the challenges of Sao Paulo city itself being the main hotspot of Covid-19 pandemic in Brazil.”

Were the passengers tested before boarding flights?

None of the stranded Indians had tested positive for Covid-19. Shipping companies had conducted COVID tests for the seafarers. For repatriation flights, the government’s instructions regarding such flights ( thermal screening etc) were followed to ensure that only asymptomatic passengers boarded the flights.

Have all the Indians returned?

According to Mishra, “With the departure of the last batch, Indians stranded in Brazil who had registered with Embassy & Consulate for repatriation flights have returned.”

There is a possibility of some stranded Indians still being in Brazil, if they chose not to opt for repatriation flight and to rather wait for the resumption of commercial flights.

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