Hardeep Singh Puri added that any international flights to evacuate Indians stranded abroad will operate only after 14 April, once the current lockdown is lifted
Airlines can take domestic bookings after 14 April, unless the current lockdown, which has been implemented to contain the spread of contagious covid-19 virus, is further extended, aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters on a video conference, Puri added that any international flights to evacuate Indians stranded abroad will operate only after 14 April, once the current lockdown is lifted.
"We can start resumption of international flights, case by case basis, after that (lockdown is revoked)," the minister said.
The Indian government has initiated a 21-day nation wide lockdown, preventing movement of people, including flights, till 14 April, in an attempt to contain the contagious covid-19, which has claimed thousands of lives worldwide. However, the government has also maintained that it didn't have any plans to extend the lockdown.
Civil aviation secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola, who was also present with Puri on videoconference, said that resuming international flights to foreign countries will be done on a case to case basis by the government.
"The government has take holistic view. When conditions become safe in other countries we can start flights," Kharola added.
Globally, over 48,284 people have died due to covid-19, while the number of those infected crossed 951,901, according to the latest data by Johns Hopkins University. Many governments, including the US, have restricted the entry of foreigners as a precautionary measure to contain the virus.
Aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Thursday however didn't comment on whether the Indian government, following its global counterparts, would initiate a bail out package for the aviation industry, which has seen steep losses due to the outspread of the virus which has brought operations at stand still.
Mint had on 2 April reported that India’s aviation industry has urged the government to take steps for financial aid, including funds infusion into airlines and airports, as covid-19 paralyses the sector.
Puri also hinted at a possible delay in the divestment of the national carrier Air India Ltd.
"The Air India divestment process is ongoing, we will revisit it when other pressing issues are resolved," he said.
Meanwhile, Air India has singed contract with four countries, namely Germany, Canada, France, and Ireland, to charter 18 flights, to help citizens of these countries currently stranded in India due to the lockdown, to return home, the airline's chairman and managing director Rajiv Bansal said.
The airline has also been allowed to carry consignments from Hong Kong and Shanghai to India, Bansal added.
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