Indian High Commissioner to Maldives, Sunjay Sudhir on Saturday, announced the successful repatriation of 305 Indian citizens, in two separate flights, under phase two of India's Vande Bharat Mission.
According to the High Commissioner, an evacuation flight from Maldives carrying 152 Indian nationals left to Bangalore, India, on Friday. A second repatriation flight to Delhi, India, departed on Saturday, carrying an additional 153 Indian nationals.
Speaking about Indian government's evacuation operation, High Commissioner Sunjay Sudhir revealed plans to arrange additional evacuation flights in the upcoming coming weeks, adding that Indian Navy vessels will also assist with the planned repatriation efforts.
Approximately 1,800 Indian citizens have returned to their homes through the joint efforts led by Maldivian and Indian authorities.
Several foreign citizens, including tourists and expatriate workers, were stranded in the island nation when the Maldivian government stopped issuing on-arrival-visas and closed its borders on March 27 over the virus outbreak in the country.
A number of special flights have been scheduled since, to undertake the repatriation work of returning foreign nationals to their home countries. Authorities are also working with foreign governments to bring back Maldivians stranded overseas due to the pandemic.
The COVID-19 outbreak in the capital has disproportionately affected its expatriate population, the majority of whom live in highly congested quarters where it is impossible to reduce contact or exercise social distancing. Local and international civil society organizations describe these living quarters as, "claustrophobic", "unsanitary" and "overcrowded".
Maldives recorded its first COVID-19 case involving an expatriate worker on April 19. Presently, 65 percent of all confirmed cases constitute expatriates. Till date, 119 Indian nationals have tested positive for the virus in Maldives.
Maldives currently records 1,274 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 1,161 active cases, 109 recoveries and four fatalities. Its capital Malé, one of the most densely populated places in the world, has recorded a significant increase in COVID-19 cases since recording its first local transmission on April 15.
The World Health Organization has classified the spread of COVID-19 as a global pandemic. The new strain of novel coronavirus has infected over 5.3 million people and claimed over 340,216 lives around the world. However, 2.16 million people have recovered from the infection.