A special Air India flight has brought 119 Indians and five foreigners back to Delhi. These people were stuck on board the coronavirus-hit cruise ship, Diamond Princess, which has been docked in Japan for the last 22 days.
The five foreigners include two people from Sri Lanka and one each from Nepal, South Africa and Peru.
All the evacuees will be quarantined for 14 days at a medical facility set up by the Indian Army in Manesar.
Indians, wearing masks, wait with their baggage and police in a cordoned off area. Image credit: ANI
Indian Ambassador to Tokyo, Sanjay Kumar Verma, who is overseeing the evacuation, told NDTV that last-minute medical checks were conducted to ensure that no one with any symptoms of the virus was allowed on the plane. He also said, "For reasons, we are still studying, three have opted not to go back to India."
According to NDTV, the Indian embassy sent the evacuee a list to prepare them for their journey back to India. They were told that there would be no stops on the way to the airport as per Japan's health protocols, and no food would be served on the flight that would take at least 10 hours. They were also only allowed to bring hand luggage into quarantine. Their checked-in baggage would be quarantined separately.
In this trying ordeal, one Mumbai girl, Sonali Thakkar's story was reported and brought to the attention of the Indian government and the Indian embassy in Japan. Thakkar was placed in isolation on 10 February, in a single room with no windows since she was diagnosed with a cold and a mild fever reported Mumbai Mirror. She had appealed to the government for help and fresh air as she felt trapped in her small cubicle. The room, she said, had become hell.
Air India flight has just landed in Delhi from Tokyo,carrying 119 Indians & 5 nationals from Sri Lanka,Nepal, South Africa&Peru who were quarantined onboard the #DiamondPrincess due to #COVID19. Appreciate the facilitation of Japanese authorities. Thank you @airindiain once again
" Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) February 26, 2020
There were 138 Indians aboard the cruise ship. Among them, 16 Indians tested positive for the virus. They have remained in Japan and are receiving necessary medical treatment at onshore medical facilities in Japan.
Aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, there were 3,711 people when it docked at the Yokohama port, near Tokyo, on 3 February. The ship was quarantined after a passenger who disembarked last month in Hong Kong was found to be a carrier of the disease.
With inputs from PTI