The photo has been used for illustrative purposes.
Briefing the media on the progress of Phase IV of the mission, known as "Vande Bharat," Srivastava said the additional flights will from GCC countries, Malaysia, Singapore, the UK, Europe, Kyrgyzstan, and Ukraine.
They will meet the continuing demand for repatriation of Indians from these countries in view of the Coronavirus pandemic. "With this augmentation, this phase from July 15 till the end of this month now has 751 international flights, catering to 34 airports in India."
The international arrivals will be supplemented by feeder flights from international airports to domestic airports different states, taking the total to 926 flights in the fourth phase. He said 687,467 Indian nationals have returned under the Vande Bharat mission as of this week.
Additionally, Srivastava said "air bubbles" with several countries, in addition to the ongoing ones, are under negotiation. These will include some countries in the GCC area. "This would help movement of people between these countries and India till international air travel is restored to normalcy."
Air bubbles are flights outside of scheduled commercial services, which are being negotiated by India worldwide in view of the extraordinary circumstances created by COVID-19. The spokesperson hinted that there may be no Vande Bharat mission Phase V because he used the words "if any" about the next phase.
This is because a vast majority of Indian citizens, who had registered their interest with Indian embassies across the world in 137 countries would have returned home on repatriation flights by July 31.
The most successful and streamlined repatriation of Indians abroad wishing to return home following the coronavirus pandemic has been from the UAE.
Since the "Vande Bharat Mission," VBM, to bring back its citizens from across the globe was launched by the Indian government on 7th May, "the UAE saw more than 160,000 Indians return home, while Kerala saw the largest number of returnees," India’s top most official for Overseas Indian Affairs, has told a consultation meeting here on "Evacuation and Repatriation of Migrants during COVID-19."
Sanjay Bhattacharyya, who is concurrently Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, MEA, in charge of Consular Affairs, Passports and Visas, said that "as a nation with over 31 million diaspora, including 18 million citizens overseas, the pandemic was a major challenge. For us, the welfare and protection of our citizens abroad is a key priority."
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.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that effective from 0300 GMT on Friday, India was being added to Britain's "red list" of countries, banning all arrivals from India except for UK or Irish nationals.
So far the group has arranged about a dozen flights to various Indian cities including Gaya, Lucknow, Varanasi, Jaipur and Kolkata. Latest flight was operated on Saturday to Gaya in Bihar.
India suspended all incoming and outgoing international flights as well as domestic air travel in the last week of March 2020 as part of a lockdown to combat COVID-19. Flights to and from India have since been resumed in a phased manner with about two-dozen countries under "air bubbles."
According to government data on Sunday, the nationwide tally of infections has reached 34.17 million since the start of the pandemic. The health ministry statement said the country reported 561 deaths overnight, taking the overall tally to 454,269 fatalities.
The central weather bureau traced the epicentre of the quake to northeastern Yilan county, and said it hit at a depth of 67 kilometres. According to preliminary data, the quake was located at a moderately shallow depth of 66km.
It comes after North Korea fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on Tuesday, prompting an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.