Two Air India Express flights left Kerala for the United Arab Emirates on Thursday as India set in motion the exercise to evacuate its citizens stranded in the Gulf region due to the COVID-19 lockdown. At least 340 passengers, mostly Keralites, including pregnant women, infants and those with medical emergencies, will be among those to be brought back from Abu Dhabi and Dubai on board the two flights, expected to return to Kochi and Kozhikode airports in the state late Thursday night.
The flight to Kochi will take off from Abu Dhabi at 4.15 pm and reach the destination at 9.40 pm, while the other to Kozhikode is scheduled for departure from Dubai at 5 pm and arrive at 10.40 pm, official sources said. In addition to the air evacuation, three naval ships, left for Maldives and UAE on Tuesday to bring back Indian citizens.
State Chief Secretary Tom Jose said only COVID-19 negative patients will be boarding the flights and still the returnees, barring pregnant women and children and elders, will be under institutional quarantine for seven days.
Those under quarantine arranged by the government at various places, including hotels, would be screened after seven days and will be allowed to go for home quarantine if they did not test positive, he told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram.