Flights from India will go to US, the Philippines, Singapore, Bangladesh, UAE, UK, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Singapore, Phillippines, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait.

New Delhi, May 5:

Hundreds of thousands of Indians stranded abroad because of the coronavirus crisis will be brought back by air and by sea from Thursday in the world’s largest evacuation mission. More than 1,90,000 Indians have requested a flight home. Those taking the special flights will be charged around Rs 50,000 from Europe and Rs 1 lakh from the US. Naval warships will also set out for Indians stuck in West Asia and the Maldives. This is the biggest exercise since national airline Air India flew back 1,70,000 during the first Gulf War.

Here are 10 developments in this big story:

Over 14,800 Indians in 13 countries will be brought back by 64 flights in the first week, says the foreign ministry.

On the first day of evacuation on May 7, 10 flights will bring back 2,300 Indians stranded because of airspace closures by various countries to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Flights from India will go to US, the Philippines, Singapore, Bangladesh, UAE, UK, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Singapore, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait to begin with. The next day, there will be flights to 13 countries spread across the Middle East, Europe, South East Asia and US. Indians will be brought from eight countries including the US, UK and UAE the day after.

Depending on the aircraft, each flight will have between 200 and 300 passengers to ensure social distancing. Before boarding the special flights, the passengers need to declare whether they have fever, cough, diabetes or any respiratory disease.

All passengers will be screened and only asymptomatic passengers would be allowed to travel, the government says. On arrival, they will be quarantined.

The three ships deployed by the Navy are INS Shardul, INS Magar and INS Jalashwa. The INS Jalashwa, based in Visakhapatnam, has steamed into the Arabian Sea for the mission. The Indian Air Force has prepared about 30 aircraft, including Boeing Co.’s C-17 Globemaster and Lockheed Martin Corp.’s C-130J Super Hercules, for the mission.

India banned all flights in late March as it imposed one of the world’s strictest lockdowns to check COVID-19, leaving thousands of workers and students stranded.

Till now, the government had resisted evacuations by flights, given the logistical and safety nightmare of repatriating and quarantining millions of returning citizens.

Priority will be given to pregnant women, the elderly, people with medical emergencies and ones with bereavement or serious illness in their immediate family, apart from stranded tourists, say officials.

India has more than 46,000 coronavirus cases; almost 1,600 have died.