CHANDIGARH: Foreigners stranded in Punjab after the lockdown was imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic are now returning home. A special flight evacuated 134 Bhutanese students while 271 British nationals were also flown back to the UK. Meanwhile, a Punjab Police officer has tested positive for the virus and villagers are demanding that the entry of migrants be stopped to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Sources said that 134 students from Bhutan flew to Thimphu by a special plane from Amritsar Intentional Airport which was arranged by the Bhutan Government. Of these, 122 are studying at Lovely Professional University (LPU) near Jalandhar and eleven in other institutions. They were checked by health department officials before being flown back. The university campus has been sealed after a student tested positive.
Deputy Commissioner of Kapurthala Deepti Uppal said special buses arranged by the LPU dropped these students at the Amritsar airport.
KBS Sidhu, Special Chief Secretary (Revenue), Punjab, said, "The students were stranded in hostels of the university ever since the start of lockdown in the state."
He added, "The British High Commission’s special chartered rescue flight operated by British Airways took off from Amritsar International Airport today afternoon carrying 271 passengers.’’
"The Jammu and Kashmir administration has also finally agreed to take back 1,400 stranded Kashmiri migrants who had been put up in relief camps at Pathankot. The Deputy Commissioner of Pathankot is waiting for a final green signal from his counterpart in Kathua to repatriate them at Lakhanpur barrier. This will also open the way for the return of Kashmiri students stranded in Amritsar, who have already completed their quarantine period,’’ said Sidhu.
"A 52-year old gazetted officer of Punjab Police posted in Ludhiana has tested positive for coronavirus and he had been unwell for the past week and has been put on the ventilator,’’ he added.
Meanwhile, a few residents of Nagra village in Sangrur demanded strict action against villagers who had brought migrants for the harvesting of wheat. "We are not allowing any outsider in our village, but some farmers have brought migrants for harvesting wheat and they could spread infection in our village. We are not allowing even our relatives to come to our village so how can these migrants come. If any farmer has to harvest wheat, they can take the services of locals,’’ said a villager.
The pandemic has also cast a shadow on Baisakhi celebrations at the Golden Temple, Takht Damdama Sahib and Anandpur Sahib which were a low key affair this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak.