Manila: Two Filipinos died due to COVID-19 in India, and at least 17 others have contracted the coronavirus as infections spiked, according to the Philippine ambassador.
Speaking from New Delhi, Ramon Bagatsing, Jr. said the Philippine Embassy in India is closed until May 17, 2021 because of the lockdown. However, assistance is being offered remotely and they are keeping in touch with the Filipino community in the country.
Following a surge in cases, blamed on the so-called “double mutant” coronavirus seen dominating infections in India, Manila banned travellers from the subcontinent until May 14, though it has lifted a ban on international travellers from May 1, 2021.
The envoy, however, told local media that the embassy will help repatriate Filipino citizens who want to return home when commercial flights resume — or when there are enough passengers for a chartered repatriation flight.
At present, however, Bagatsing said it is "logistically difficult" to arrange a repatriation flight in the midst of travel ban imposed on flyers from India. The Philippines does not have a direct flight to India.
Not many Filipinos in India, however, have expressed willingness to go home, he added. “There aren’t so many (Filipinos who sought embassy’s help to fly home). Although, if one Filipino wishes to go home, we are obliged to help. On the logistics side, we need at least 150 passengers to make it viable," he told the local ABS-CBN radio network.
It is not immediately known how many Filipino citizens are in India.
“Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr said maybe we could mount a flight in June or the middle of the month when things have improved,” Bagatsing said.
“Otherwise, we wait for the commercial flights to resume and then we can do that.”
India is facing a covid “tsunami”, with new cases rising by more than 300,000 for 12th straight day on Monday (May 3, 2021).
The coronavirus situation in the world’s second-most populous country has hit nearly 20 million, as scientists predict peak in infections in the coming days. Medical experts say real numbers across the country of 1.35 billion may be five to 10 times higher than the official tally.