Vande Bharat Mission: A pregnant woman with her child at the Kochi airport after being repatriated from Abu Dhabi in a special flight Thursday (Source: PR Dept, Gov of Kerala)

India on Thursday launched one of its biggest evacuation exercises, bringing back the first batch of expatriates stranded overseas amid the COVID-19 shutdown. At 10.20 pm, an Air India Express flight from Abu Dhabi landed in Kerala’s Kochi international airport with 177 passengers and four children.

Minutes later, in North Kerala’s Kozhikode airport, another flight landed from Dubai with 177 passengers and five children.

India had earlier announced that as part of Phase 1 of an evacuation plan titled ‘Vande Bharat Mission’, 64 flights and three Navy ships would be operated to bring home nearly 15,000 Indians stranded overseas.

On Thursday, passengers who landed in Kochi and Kozhikode came home to an unusual welcome. Instead of crowds of relatives thronging the arrivals gate, they were greeted by officials and health workers who stood in PPE gear in the disinfected terminal.

The passengers were ushered in batches into a triage area, where they were made to undergo mandatory health screening. Those symptomatic will be shifted to Covid hospitals while the asymptomatic will be moved to institutional quarantine centres for 14 days in their home districts.

Migrants arrive at Bengaluru’s Majestic Bus Stand to leave for their native places. (PTI)

Karnataka to restart trains for migrants, but many start walking

Meanwhile, a day after its decision to stop train services for stranded migrant workers came under severe criticism, the BJP government in Karnataka on Thursday decided to resume train services.

They were among several groups of migrant labourers in Bengaluru who set off on foot for their home states, after the state government halted train services for migrants on Wednesday. The Opposition and others reacted angrily to the government decision, alleging it had stopped trains under pressure from the construction and infrastructure lobby, which feared the long-term stalling of their projects if migrant workers left the state capital.

As the government reversed its decision, the state revenue secretary wrote to the governments of other states, asking them to prepare for the arrival of migrants.

An examination of procurement and company approvals shows that foreign firms account for the largest chunk of company approvals for COVID-19 diagnostic materials in the country.

India’s testing capacity continues to be majorly reliant on global supply chains even as domestic manufacturing of other COVID-19-related requirements has been rapidly ramped up.

An examination of procurement and company approvals shows that foreign firms account for the largest chunk of company approvals for COVID-19 diagnostic materials in the country.

According to the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) list released on Wednesday, 85 of 95 (close to 90 per cent) approved antibody test kit manufacturers are foreign companies. Similarly, 11 out of 21 (more than 50 per cent) ICMR-approved RT-PCR manufacturers are foreign. Sixty per cent of the approved rapid antibody test manufacturers are Chinese.



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