Airplanes are seen at the Indira Gandhi International Airport apron during a nationwide lockdown in New Delhi. File / APF
A migrant boy sleeps on a trolley bag being pulled by his mother in a Indian state. Twitter photo
The government halted all domestic flights — which ferried 144 million passengers as well as cargo across the vast country last year — on March 25, days after suspending international flights.
"All airports and air carriers are being informed to be ready for operations from 25th May," Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Twitter. No indication was given when international travel would resume.
Migrant boys take rest during a lockdown near Mumbai.
Some interstate Indian trains — on a network which normally carries over 20 million passengers a day — resumed a week ago.
The announcement comes the same day as the country of 1.3 billion people reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus infections, with 5,611 new cases recorded in 24 hours.
It took the total to 106,750, with financial capital Mumbai the worst-hit city, according to government figures.
More than 3,300 people have died — though unofficial estimates are higher — and Mumbai accounts for almost a quarter of fatalities.
Other major cities such as New Delhi and Ahmedabad are also badly affected.
Hospital bed shortages
Mumbai authorities are looking to requisition thousands of private hospital beds, with state-run care facilities overwhelmed in the city of 20 million people.
"A plan is under consideration to take over 80 percent of beds in private hospitals for non-COVID cases," Mumbai city spokesperson Vijay Khabale-Patil said.
Policemen try to control a crowd of migrant workers from other states who gathered outside a railway station desperate to return to their homes, in Mumbai. AP
With some virus patients reportedly sleeping on the streets outside hospitals waiting for beds to become free, authorities say they need to boost the 5,000 available for critically ill patients.
Mumbai has already had to build makeshift field hospitals and turned several landmarks into quarantine facilities, including a 19th-century horse-racing venue, a sports stadium that was used to host NBA games last year and a planetarium.
There are fears the start of the monsoon next month and the spread of diseases like dengue fever will add to the burden.
The capital New Delhi, also home to 20 million people, has likewise been badly hit.
It now has more than 10,000 cases and while authorities have confirmed only 160 coronavirus deaths, media reports — citing cemetery records — say there have been almost triple that number at least.
Gujarat state's largest city, Ahmedabad, has meanwhile recorded 8,945 cases with nearly 600 deaths.
Experts predict the epidemic will worsen in the major cities over the next month and infections are only expected to peak in June or July.
The Health Ministry on Saturday put the total number of cases in India at 173,763 with 4,971 deaths. The total infections included 86,422 active cases and 82,369 recoveries.
The latest phase of these repatriation flights, known as the "Vande Bharat Mission," began on March 1 and will last till March 28. Slightly more than 1,350 international flights are scheduled to be operated from 28 countries in this phase, enabling an estimated 260,000 Indians to travel home.
"There is need to maintain surveillance, containment and caution so as to fully overcome the pandemic. States and Union Territories have also been advised to speed up the vaccination of the target population so as to break the chain of transmission and overcome the pandemic..."
Heartrending scenes of a newborn plucked alive from the rubble and a broken father clutching his dead daughter's hand have laid bare the human cost of violent earthquakes in Syria and Turkey that by Wednesday had claimed 7,800 lives.
The last two days have brought dramatic rescues, including small children emerging from mounds of debris more than 30 hours after Monday's pre-dawn quake. But there was also widespread despair and growing anger at the slow pace of rescue efforts in some areas.
The AFP cameraman captured a poignant picture of a Turkish father, Masoud Hanser, refusing to leave his dead daughter's hand under the rubble.