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Indore: Stranded Indian passengers from Abu Dhabi arrive at Indore as part of the government's ongoing Vande Bharat Mission. Image Credit: PTI

Dubai: Over 400 repatriation flights from the UAE to India and vice versa have been announced under the fifth phase of India’s Vande Bharat Mission (VBM).

The first repatriation flight from the UAE to Kannur in the southern Indian state of Kerala was among these flights, the tickets for which went on sale last week. The first flight departed on Wednesday from Sharjah to Kannur, according to the latest announcement by Air India Express and Air India. The Kannur-Sharjah flight was also the first repatriation flight to land in the fifth phase.

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The announcement comes as a huge relief as the fifth VBM schedule has flights from UAE to India and back, all lined up until the end of August. Pavan Kaapoor, the Indian Ambassador to the UAE on Monday announced that Indians with any valid visa to the UAE can travel.

The destinations for departures from India include Kozhikode, Mangaluru, Tiruchirappalli, Thiruvanthapuram, Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Delhi, Kannur and Kochi.

Relief for travellers

On Wednesday the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA) and ICA announced that expatriate residents stranded abroad will no longer need entry permits issued by the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) to enter the UAE.

This means as of Wednesday, travellers need not apply for an entry permit and automatic approval will be granted to those wishing to return to the UAE. However, a valid negative PCR Covid-19 test result from a government-accredited laboratory is mandatory pre-travel. Airlines carrying passengers must ensure the test is issued not more than 96 hours ahead of departure.

Deadline extended

The Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship also extended the deadline for holders of expired entry permits and visas from August 11 for one month, to enable them to leave the country and exempt them from fines.

The authority’s move is part of the initiatives launched by the UAE and is in implementation of the UAE Cabinet’s related decisions and regulations of entry and residency of foreigners.

All this has prompted several new flights to be added on both sectors. The new flights announced come as a huge relief for Indians stranded on both sides as the VBM flights serve during the COVID-19 pandemic.