Total 73 Maldivians stranded in Belarus and the United Kingdom amid the COVID-19 pandemic are to be repatriated this coming Sunday.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they include 50 Maldivian students in Belarus and 23 stranded in the UK.
They will be evacuated from London via a chartered flight of Sri Lankan Airlines. The ministry noted that the students in Belarus will travel from Minsk to the UK on Saturday to join the flight.
The foreign ministry in collaboration with the Maldivian Embassy in Germany and the Maldivian High Commission in the UK, are working with Sri Lankan Airlines and UK authorities to arrange the repatriation effort.
"The fares for this flight are being borne by those returning", stated the ministry, adding that the number of locals being repatriated might change as ticketing is still ongoing.
As per the current procedures applicable to those returning from abroad, all 73 locals will be immediately transferred to quarantine facilities from Velana International Airport, where they will remain for the standard 14-day quarantine period. They will only be allowed to travel elsewhere after undergoing testing for COVID-19.
The move to repatriate Maldivians from Belarus comes amidst concerns raised by the students to the Maldivian government about their own safety, as Belarus remains one of the only European nations that is yet to implement strict containment measures against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to this, repatriation efforts were carried out to bring back Maldivians stranded in Nepal, Bangladesh, Russia, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, the UK and Thailand as well.
Maldives presently records 1,457 confirmed and 1,220 active cases of COVID-19, five fatalities and 232 recoveries till date.
WHO has classified the spread of COVID-19 as a global pandemic. The new strain of novel coronavirus has infected over 5.7 million people and claimed over 352,800 lives around the world. However, out of those infected, 2.4 million people have recovered.