The repatriation of Indian citizens stranded in Qatar due to the lockdown in India and flight restrictions prompted by the spread of Covid-19 has been rescheduled and will now begin on Saturday, May 9, instead of Thursday.
Under the original plan, the first repatriation flight - from Doha to Kochi - was scheduled for Thursday.
The Indian embassy in Qatar Wednesday clarified that "the flight that was scheduled for May 7 has been rescheduled to May 9 (Saturday)". No reason was, however, cited for this.
According to an embassy official, Air India has opened a counter on the Indian Cultural Centre (ICC) premises in Abu Hamour so that shortlisted passengers for Kochi can buy their tickets.
The fare for a ticket to Kochi is INR16,000 (around QR766). Air India is now scheduled to fly to Kochi on Saturday evening with about 200 passengers, it is learnt.
ICC president Manikantan A P on Wednesday said most of the passengers for Kochi had already bought their tickets and efforts were on to help the remaining shortlisted persons get theirs on time. “In certain cases, some passengers need some certificates from the embassy. If they are not able to reach us before we close on Wednesday (5pm), we will try to help them on Thursday," he explained.
Videos and images from ICC showed that social distancing norms were followed as people waited for their turn to pay for and collect their tickets.
The official said that there will be health screening for all passengers before they board the flight.
Another flight is expected to take a group of 200 passengers to Thiruvananthapuram on May 10. The details of its operation will be made available later.
About 40,000 Indians have registered for repatriation on the Indian embassy website and those with the most urgent need for repatriation were shortlisted for the special flights that have been announced until now.
On Wednesday, the embassy said it had resumed collection of data about people requesting repatriation to India due to the "continuing demand for registration".
Those seeking repatriation have to fill a form, which is available at this link
"The form is to be filled for a single individual at a time," the embassy stressed.
The embassy had earlier said it would take time to accommodate all the requests and complete the process. The shortlisted passengers will have to bear the cost of the air ticket.
All the requirements for quarantine after reaching India as well as the medical requirements for travel from Doha will be conveyed to them and have to be accepted by every passenger.
The Indian government has allocated 64 flights to make travel arrangements for Indians stranded around the world in the first week of the repatriation process, which begins Thursday at a number of places.