Covid-19: UAE-India air links may be resumed, says Minister
Evacuation flights for stranded Gulf citizens in the next few days.
India's Civil Aviation Ministry today offered cautious optimism that passenger air connections with the UAE may be resumed soon after India's three-week lockdown prompted by the global Covid-19 outbreak ends on April 14.
"Any incoming flights to bring Indians back home will have to await the lifting of the lockdown," Hardeep Singh Puri, the Minister for Civil Aviation, told reporters this evening.
"The lockdown is till April 15 - and, we can start considering the resumption of flights on a case-by-case basis depending on where they are coming from after that," Puri said.
India banned all scheduled international commercial passenger aircraft from landing in India effective March 22 without any timeline.
Puri's statement today is the first indication that international air traffic will be resumed when the current lockdown ends.
The cut off in civil aviation links between India and the outside world came into effect two days before the domestic lockdown and was prompted by concern that international passenger arrivals were fuelling the spread of Coronavirus. So there was no guarantee until this evening that an end to the lockdown will automatically lead to a resumption of international flights.
"Unless the lockdown is extended, the Ministry of Health will decide which all countries are safe enough to allow people to fly from into India starting April 15," Civil Aviation Secretary PS Kharola, who was with the Minister, added.
Meanwhile, Air India's Chairman Rajiv Bansal said the airline will shortly operate 18 flights to evacuate foreign nationals stuck in India because of disruptions in international air traffic.
Several GCC citizens are also stuck in India and the evacuation flights by Air India and other Gulf airlines will see their return home in the next few days.
"These flights out of India will be carrying their citizens. On the way back to India, the aircraft will not have any cargo or any passenger," Bansal said.
Some Gulf airlines are continuing to operate cargo flights to India and back during the lockdown.
Prime Minster Narendra Modi told Chief Ministers of all Indian states in a video conference today that the ongoing lockdown will be ended in phases from March 14.
He was quoted as saying that the lockdown had helped limit COVID-19 infections. "But the situation remains far from satisfactory around the world and there could be a second wave of the pandemic."
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