A total of 719 Indian nationals stuck in Maldives due to the lockdown measures implemented to contain the COVID-19 spread left for their home country on Friday.
These individuals were evacuated from Maldives on a naval ship under the Vande Bharat Mission launched by the Indian government in May to repatriate their countrymen stranded in different countries amidst the ongoing pandemic.
Deputy Commissioner at the Indian High Commission of Maldives Shri Rohit Rathish told local media Mihaaru that the ship will dock at Thoothukudi, as most of the passengers aboard are from Tamil Nadu.
Prior to this, the Indian navy had repatriated over 1,400 individuals via the sea route to Kochi under the Vande Bharat Mission, while over 300 Indian nationals were flown out on special flights.
During Wednesday and Thursday, 342 Indians were repatriated on chartered flights, organised by private companies. In addition, the Indian High Commission has arranged three Air India flights for June 16, 17 and 18 as well.
In facilitating travel arrangements, priority is given to pregnant women, those with medical emergencies, and migrant workers who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Every individual travelling back to India is required to complete a 14-day quarantine before returning to their respective residences.
According to the Indian High Commission, over 27,000 Indian nationals work in Maldives in different sectors, filling the posts of teachers, health professionals and labourers.
The virus outbreak in capital Male' severely affected its migrant worker population, the majority of whom are Bangladeshi nationals living in highly congested quarters where it is impossible to reduce contact or exercise social distancing. Their often small-spaced living conditions have been described by local and international civil society organizations as, "claustrophobic", "unsanitary" and "overcrowded".
Maldives recorded its first case involving a migrant worker, who was from Bangladesh, on April 19. Since, the total number of Bangladeshi workers that have tested positive for COVID-19 have surpassed 1,000, while 190 Indian nationals have contracted the virus as well.
Presently, Maldives records 1,872 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 1,217 active cases, 648 recoveries and seven fatalities. 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.
As per current statistics, migrant workers consist of almost 65 percent of the positive cases identified in the country.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified the spread of COVID-19 as a global pandemic. The new strain of novel coronavirus has infected over 6.7 million people and claimed over 395,000 lives around the world. However, 3.3 million people have recovered from the infection.