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South Africa to repatriate its over 200 citizens from India on May 22

India on Sunday extended the nationwide lockdown till May 31 to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Published: 18th May 2020 04:23 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th May 2020 04:23 AM   |  A+A-

Passengers exit an AI repatriation flight.

Passengers exit an AI repatriation flight. (Photo | Hardeep Puri, Twitter)

By PTI

JOHANNESBURG: South Africa will repatriate its over 200 citizens, who have been stranded across India due to the COVID-19 restrictions, by a charter flight on May 22, according to the country's department of international relations.

The South African nationals will be repatriated from India as part of the country's exercise to bring back its stranded citizens from different countries, including the US and UK, the South African Department of International Relations and Communication (DIRCO) said on Friday.

The DRDO said that a charter flight of the South African Airways (SAA)would collect the South African nationals from Mumbai and New Delhi on May 22.

However, some of the South African nationals stranded in different cities in India are finding it difficult to reach to the international airports in Mumbai or Delhi to take the flight due to the nationwide lockdown in place in the country.

India on Sunday extended the nationwide lockdown till May 31 to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

READ| Centre gives charge to states on lockdown 4.0: Here's what's allowed, what's not

In one case, a South African company is footing a hefty bill of over Rs 75,000 for a car trip to get its three employees, who were on training in Kolkota, to Delhi for the flight.

Some of them are even finding it hard to pay for the one-way ticket costing over 15,000 rands (USD 805) per person in the economy class.

With SAA having stopped its direct flights to Mumbai a few years ago, most South Africans use other airlines, usually via Dubai, and will be required to buy new SAA tickets for the one-way flight costing around three times the normal airfare.

The airline said those who are holding an SAA ticket will have the amount offset against the cost of the repatriation flight.

Sharon Ryan, who started a group for the South Africans stuck in India, said, “amongst the elderly and children who make up our numbers, is a stage-4 cancer patient, someone who suffers from diabetes and ischemic heart disease, both out of medication.

"Another is stuck in the Thar Desert in temperatures ranging 38-45 degrees Celsius, suffering heat exhaustion,” Ryan said.

The flight will terminate in Johannesburg, so the returnees will still have the added challenge of getting to their places of residence after mandatory quarantine because inter-provincial travel is still prohibited in South Africa due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

With India still preparing to repatriate its citizens from South Africa, SAA has offered them the opportunity to use the outbound flight from Johannesburg subject to certain conditions.

The process for booking has stringent requirements, and closes on Monday, but there has reportedly been a flood of enquiries from among the estimated 50,000 Indian nationals in South Africa who either work in the country, or have been visiting family members here.

Among the SAA requirements is approval and vetting for the flight by the Indian missions in South Africa, whose offices were opened this weekend to provide assistance to those needing it.

The Indian High Commission in Pretoria said in a statement that priority will be given to compelling cases in distress, including migrant workers who have been laid off, short term visa holders faced with expiry of visas, persons with medical emergencies, pregnant women, the elderly, those required to return to India due to death of a family member, and students.

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