India on Tuesday dispatched four Naval ships to Maldives and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as part of the first phase of evacuation to bring back Indians stranded due to COVID-19 restrictions and lockdown.
Amphibious vessels INS Jalashwa and INS Magar are headed to Maldives while INS Shardul and INS Airavat set sail to the UAE. INS Jalashwa is set to reach Maldives on May 8 and INS Magar is scheduled to reach on May 10, a defence source said.
An official source that 700-1,000 people would be brought back on May 8 which is about a quarter of those needing to return from Maldives.
Modalities being finalised
Modalities at the port of entry at the UAE are still being finalised and should be in place before the ships reach, a second defence source said. From the western Indian coast to the Fujairah port in the UAE would take about three days to reach and Jebel Ali port in Dubai would take about four days.
INS Jalashwa is the largest amphibious platform in the Navy and is based at the Eastern Naval Command headquarters in Visakhapatnam. It can normally accommodate 1,000 people, but after factoring social distancing requirements, it can take in about 800 people.
The other three amphibious ships are Landing Ship Tanks of the Shardul class and Magar class and can normally accommodate about 500 people each, and with COVID-19 precautions the capacity will be reduced to around 300-350, according to officials.
On Monday, the Union Home Ministry announced that hundreds of thousands of Indians stranded in various parts of the world due to COVID-19 would be brought back to India in a phased manner beginning May 7 on commercial aircraft and Indian naval ships on a payment basis.
The Home Ministry has said that Ministries concerned had prepared a Standard Operating Procedure for travel and health protocols, and only non-COVID and asymptomatic passengers will be allowed to board the flights and ships.