Air India Delhi-Moscow flight returns midway after pilot found COVID-19 positive; DGCA orders probe

An Air India Delhi-Moscow flight, flying under the Government’s Vande Bharat Mission, returned to the national capital midway as the ground staff informed that the pilot has tested positive for novel Coronavirus, officials were quoted as saying by news agency PTI.

Aviation regulator, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has ordered a probe into the incident.

The aircraft is under disinfection process at Delhi airport, according to ANI.

Meanwhile, there has been no official response on the incident yet.

This is for the first time such an incident has happened since the Government started evacuating its citizens stranded abroad from May 7.

The government under the Vande Bharat Mission has till Thursday evacuated over 45,000 Indian nationals stranded abroad due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown.

The official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Anurag Srivastava, revealed in a virtual media briefing that of the 45,216 Indians who have returned, 8,069 are migrant workers, 7,656 students and 5,107 professionals. Around 5,000 Indians have returned through the land border immigration checkpoints from Nepal and Bangladesh.

As many as 3,08,200 persons have registered their request with the Indian missions abroad for repatriation to India on compelling grounds.

The Vande Bharat Mission is in full swing with Phase I being successfully completed from May 7 to May 16, during which 16,716 stranded Indians returned to the country.

In Phase II of VBM from May 17 to June 13, 429 Air India flights (311 international flights and 118 feeder flights) from 60 countries are scheduled to land in India.

The Indian Navy will be making four more sorties to bring back returnees from Iran, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, the spokesperson said.

The government is also assisting the return of stranded Indians from remote locations in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and parts of Europe. This is being done with the help of foreign carriers flying to India primarily for evacuation of their nationals. Recently, about 300 stranded Indians from Peru, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Portugal and the Netherlands were brought in.

Private airlines and chartered flights have also been included in the Vande Bharat Mission now. The numbers are expected to go up in the coming days, Srivastava had said.

The Centre had on May 4 announced plans to begin a phased repatriation of its citizens stranded abroad from May 7.

The repatriation exercise began with the national carrier Air India along with its subsidiary Air India Express.

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