Over 200 Koreans airlifted from New Delhi

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Over 200 Koreans airlifted from New Delhi

A group of 220 Koreans in New Delhi departed from India, currently under lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, on a special Korean Air flight and returned home Monday.

The Korean Air plane departed from Indira Gandhi International Airport on Sunday evening on a temporary route and arrived at Incheon International Airport Monday morning.

Amid a spike in coronavirus cases in India, the Korean Embassy in India worked to get a special permit from Indian authorities to ensure the return of Koreans in the country, including company employees, students and tourists.

India has been on lockdown since March 25, and there are over 4,200 reported coronavirus cases in the country as of Monday.

The passengers had their temperatures checked before boarding the plane and are required to undergo self-quarantine at their homes after arriving in Korea. If a passenger tests positive for coronavirus, they will receive treatment at a hospital or at a government-designated facility.

The Korean Embassy and Korean Association in India is surveying the demand for residents wishing to return home and plans on scheduling another special flight out of New Delhi.

A special flight out of Mumbai is also currently being scheduled, while a Korean association is working toward arranging a chartered flight for employees at Hyundai Motor and Samsung Electronics factories in Chennai.

There are over 1.2 million confirmed Covid-19 cases and over 69,000 deaths reported globally as of Monday, leading to major lockdowns and flight suspensions across the world.

The Korean Foreign Ministry, as of Monday, said it has supported the return home of over 6,600 Koreans in 43 countries.

According to a senior Foreign Ministry official, there are 36 cases of Koreans confirmed to have had coronavirus abroad, in countries including Germany, China, the United States and Canada, of which 14 have fully recovered and 22 are receiving treatment or are in quarantine.

Korea sends a government chartered flight only as a last resort when commercial routes and civilian chartered planes are not available and there is significant demand, like it did last week to evacuate over 500 Korean residents from the Italian cities of Rome and Milan.

A group of some 260 Koreans in New Zealand, also under lockdown, is set to return home on an Air New Zealand chartered flight Tuesday.

The Air New Zealand plane will depart from Auckland Airport Tuesday morning and arrive at Incheon International Airport.

There are an estimated 2,000 Koreans in New Zealand, mainly in Auckland and in Christchurch, wishing to return to Korea, including those on the working holiday program who no longer have jobs because of the coronavirus crisis.

New Zealand issued a Level 4 alert warning people to stay home and began a monthlong lockdown on March 25. The New Zealand government on Thursday allowed foreign nationals to use land transportation or take domestic flights to connect with international flights to their home countries. Another group of some 260 Koreans is expected to depart New Zealand Friday on a Korean Air chartered flight.

The Korean Embassy in New Zealand on Sunday posted a notice on its website saying it is accepting reservations for a second Korean Air chartered flight to depart Friday morning. The cost of an economy class ticket will be $2,100.

A third civilian chartered flight is expected to be arranged if there is demand.

A group of 60 Koreans in Hungary were likewise set to depart from Budapest late Monday on a temporary route, according to Seoul’s Foreign Ministry. A plane carried SK Innovation employees to Hungary, and the Korean residents will return on the same plane. They are set to arrive at Incheon airport Tuesday.

A group of 100 Koreans returned on a chartered flight from Morocco last Friday, and some 60 people from Kenya were set to return Tuesday on a temporary Qatar Airways flight.

There are also efforts to aid the return of Korean nationals in countries including Uganda, Namibia, Tunisia, Laos, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, said a Foreign Ministry official. Despite tight travel restrictions, Seoul has been working with countries with entry bans to allow special exemptions for Korean businesspeople confirmed to be virus-free. So far, the Korean government has arranged with eight countries to allow special entry permits for over 2,500 Korean businesspeople, said the Foreign Ministry official, including Vietnam and China.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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