Indians stranded abroad will have to bear the cost of travel as well as a 14-day quarantine and they should be Covid-19 negative, the government announced on Tuesday.
Priority will be given to compelling cases in distress, including migrant workers and labourers who have been laid off, short-term visa holders faced with the expiry of visas, persons with medical emergencies, pregnant women, elderly, those required to return to India due to death of family members, and students.
The Standard Operating Protocol (SOP), issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), on Tuesday also said that such persons should register themselves with the Indian mission in the country where they are stuck. The SOP was issued a day after the Ministry announced the return of stranded Indians abroad from May 7 in a phased manner.
“Such Indians will have to provide all necessary details as prescribed by the Ministry of Home Affairs,” it said. The stranded Indians 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 Department of Military Affairs (DMA).
As per the SOP, only those crew and staff, who test Covid-19 negative, will be allowed to operate these flights and ships.
“The cost of travel, as specified by MOCA and DMA will be borne by such travellers,” it said.
Based on the registrations received, the MEA (Ministry of External Affairs) will prepare a flight and ship-wise database of all such travellers, including details such as name, age, gender, mobile phone numbers, place of residence, place of final destination; and information on RT-PCR test taken and its result, it said, adding that the data will be shared by MEA with the respective states and the Union Territories (UTs) in advance.
The MEA will designate state and the UT wise nodal officers, who will coordinate with the nodal officers designated for this purpose by the respective state and UTs. The Ministry will also display with at least two days notice of the incoming flight and ship on its online digital platform. 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.
The SOP also said that 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 of the flight and ship, MEA will facilitate thermal screening as per health protocol, it said, adding that only asymptomatic travellers would be allowed to board the flights and ships.
“Passengers arriving through the 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) duplicated will be filled in advance by all passengers coming from any point of entry like land, sea or airports, and a copy of the form will be given to health and immigration officials present at the airport, seaport and land port,” it said.
While onboard the flight and ship, the health protocol of MoCA and DMA will be strictly followed. This would include wearing masks, environmental hygiene, respiratory hygiene etc to be observed by airline or ship staff, crew and all passengers. On arrival, thermal screening would be carried out and the passengers found to be symptomatic during screening shall be immediately taken to a medical facility.
All passengers shall be asked to download the Arogya Setu app on their mobile devices.
The remaining passengers shall be taken to suitable institutional quarantine facilities to be arranged by the respective state and the UT governments.
These facilities may be as far as possible in the district headquarters of the district to which the arriving passengers belong. If the passengers 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 governments.
Since the announcement of the lockdown from March 24 midnight, all international flights were stopped, leaving Indians in foreign lands stranded.