MUMBAI: After 49 tested positive for COVID-19 in Maharashtra, the Uddhav Thackeray government now braces for another estimated 40,000 travellers arriving by flights from many of the affected countries to the international airports in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur over the next two weeks, official sources indicated here on Thursday.
There are over two dozen incoming flights daily, averaging around 200 passengers per flight from the badly-hit Gulf nations and other affected countries to these three major cities.
Chief Minister Thackeray said on Thursday the state is fully prepared to handle these incoming flights while Pune Divisional Commissioner Deepak Mhaisekar informed that all passengers arriving from Dubai from Friday would be compulsorily picked up for quarantine at the airport itself.
Mhaisekar also said that domestic flight passengers are also being screened to ensure that none among them -- who may have arrived from a foreign country to any other international airport in India and then taken a domestic flight to Pune -- has been missed out even accidentally.
However, with the Centre earlier in the day banning all incoming international flights for a week from March 22, the pressure is expected to somewhat ease on the local state health authorities.
As per available details, an average of 5,000-plus passengers, including many foreigners, fly down to Maharashtra daily from many of the affected countries in the Gulf, Europe and the US, besides other countries, and would require quarantine in Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur.
Besides, there are likely to be special flights being operated to rescue stranded Indian tourists or students who have sent SOS to Maharashtra government and the Centre from different countries including Uzbekistan, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Spain, etc.
One such special flight carrying a batch of around 40 medical students from Singapore is expected to reach Mumbai late on Thursday, said BJP state Vice-President Kirit Somaiya.
However, despite attempts, state officials could not provide the exact number of quarantine facilities being made available for the expected additional influx into the state from other affected countries over the next couple of weeks.