LONDON: British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Monday confirmed that flights are being fixed from India to bring British nationals stranded in the coronavirus lockdown back to the UK this week.
During the daily Downing Street press briefing, the senior Cabinet minister revealed that the UK’s death toll from the pandemic has crossed the 5,000 mark to hit 5,373 but indicated that the strict lockdown measures are reflecting some impact on hospitalisation numbers.
The minister also reiterated that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was in “good spirits” in hospital as he undergoes “routine tests” and continues to lead the UK’s Covid-19 response.
“We’ve already had flights back from countries including Peru, Ghana, and Tunisia. And we’re fixing further flights from India, South Africa, Nepal and the Philippines, which will fly later on this week,” said Raab, who is Johnson’s designated second in command should he have to take some time off due to his persistent Covid-19 symptoms.
“I want to reassure people that every arm of government is doing everything it possibly can to defeat coronavirus and rise to the challenges it presents us at home and abroad,” he said.
Over the weekend, the UK government had announced the first seven charter flights being arranged for British residents wanting to fly back from India. The special flights to London include three scheduled from Goa for Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and two each from Mumbai and Delhi on Thursday and Saturday.
The first set of charter flights are for UK travellers who normally reside in the UK and their direct dependents. A number of seats will be reserved for those deemed vulnerable, with individuals in this group to be contacted directly. The UK government has said that information on further flights from other cities locations in India will follow shortly.
“We are awaiting confirmation of flights from Amritsar to Birmingham,” said Opposition Labour MP Preet Kaur Gill.
The British Sikh MP for Birmingham Edgbaston said the government is reportedly working to address this with the British High Commission in New Delhi.
Her intervention came as a group of over 55 Opposition MPs wrote to Dominic Raab to express “serious concern” about the efforts being made by the government to repatriate British nationals stranded abroad.
“After over a week, the Foreign Office announced 75 million pound to help support repatriation efforts, but this is insufficient and has done little to reduce the cost of many flights,” notes the letter signed by Opposition members including Indian-origin MPs Tan Deshi, Virendra Sharma and Navendu Mishra.