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(LEAD) More than 170 Koreans return home from virus-hit India via special flight

Health 14:28 May 04, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES paras 3, 13; CHANGES photos)

SEOUL, May 4 (Yonhap) -- More than 170 South Korean residents in virus-hit India returned home on Tuesday via a special flight, and more people will come home this week, health authorities said.

A flight operated by Indian air carrier Vistara landed at Incheon International Airport around 10:17 a.m. with 172 passengers, including workers of Hyundai Motor Co., after departing from Chennai International Airport in southern India.

India has been a virus hotspot in recent months, with a COVID-19 variant strain also posing a problem. The country has reported more than 300,000 new coronavirus cases per day for 13 consecutive days, with its accumulated total now exceeding 20 million.

Health workers clad in protective suits guide arrivals from India at Incheon International Airport in Incheon, west of Seoul, on May 4, 2021. (Yonhap)

Regular flights between South Korea and India have been suspended from March last year over virus concerns. Since then, only non-regular flights have been operated between the two countries.

But to better contain the Indian variant of COVID-19, South Korea started to suspend non-scheduled flights from April 24, although it allowed flights carrying South Korean nationals to operate on a limited basis.

Passenger jets bound for South Korea from India are required to fill less than 60 percent of their seats, and at least 90 percent of those seats must be occupied by South Korean citizens.

Those aboard flights to South Korea must submit a health certificate proving they tested negative for the novel coronavirus.

All arrivals from India must stay in state-designated shelters for seven days even if they test negative for COVID-19.

Previously, travelers from India had to stay at the shelters for two days, but health authorities decided to tighten measures to better curb imported cases.

Arrivals from India wait for buses heading to quarantine facilities at Incheon International Airport in Incheon, west of Seoul, on May 4, 2021. (Yonhap)

They have to take a diagnostic test on the sixth day after their arrival and can move to their residential places for self-isolation if they test negative. They need to undergo virus tests again before they are freed from self-isolation.

On Friday, a charter flight by Asiana Airlines is scheduled to return home with 211 passengers from Bengaluru International Airport in India.

The authorities plan to operate 10 more non-scheduled flights this month to transport South Korean citizens from India.

The number of imported cases from India stood at 35 last week, up from 14 recorded between April 4 and 10. Health authorities have also identified 33 Indian COVID-19 variant cases here as of Tuesday.

kdon@yna.co.kr
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