KOCHI (India) • A navy ship carrying evacuees from the Maldives arrived in India yesterday as part of a massive effort to bring home hundreds of thousands of nationals left stranded overseas due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
Workers and students were unable to return home after India banned all incoming international flights in late March as part of the world's biggest lockdown to combat the spread of the deadly infectious disease.
The warship INS Jalashwa carrying 698 Indians from the Maldives capital of Male arrived at Cochin port in the south Indian state of Kerala yesterday morning.
It followed the arrival of 326 Indians from London early yesterday at Mumbai's international airport.
Another warship, the INS Magar, was expected to arrive in Male yesterday to repatriate more stranded Indians. Around 4,000 of the 27,000 Indians living in the Maldives have registered to be taken home.
The naval efforts are part of an initial operation to repatriate almost 15,000 Indians from 12 countries.
The repatriation process is set to be expanded in the next few weeks to include more stranded citizens in European and South-east Asian nations, local media reported.
Last Thursday, the first two repatriation flights brought back 354 Indians from Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The returnees then went into quarantine centres.
Two returnees have since tested positive for the coronavirus, Kerala state's Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said late on Saturday.
He added that it was "a warning to those coming back from abroad and for other states to be on the alert".
India has started to ease its lockdown, but domestic and international flights remain grounded.
The country's coronavirus cases yesterday exceeded 64,000, while the death toll was at 2,144, amid record jumps in recent days.