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Kochi, April 27, 2020
As many as 164 foreign tourists, who were stranded in Kerala and nearby states because of the nationwide lockdown imposed on March 25 to contain the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, left from here for Switzerland on Saturday night.
This was the fourth flight that repatriated tourists from the state to Europe since March 23 when all international flights were banned.
The special Swiss Air flight took off from Kochi late Saturday night and landed at the Zurich airport on Sunday morning (10 a.m. IST). Besides the 164 passengers who had boarded from Kochi, the flight carried 49 others from Kolkata from where it had a stopover in the Kerala city.
At the Nedumbassery airport here, Swiss Consul-General to India (Bangalore) Sebastien Hug oversaw the repatriation mission along with Syed Ibrahim, Honorary Consul of the German Honorary Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.
Besides 115 Swiss citizens , the flight carried tourists from Germany, Austria, Norway, Denmark and France. Most of the passengers from Kochi were tourists in Kerala, while the others were brought in from neighbouring states, a press release from Kerala Tourism said.
Kerala had earlier facilitated the return of 268 tourists to the UK when a London-bound British Airways departed from Kochi on April 15. Prior to it, an Air India aircraft with 232 passengers had left for Germany on March 31, and, four days later, a flight to France (112 people).
Kerala Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran said most of the stranded foreign tourists in the state have been repatriated. There were messages from the returned guests appreciating the excellent arrangements that the government had made for their care and health during their stay after the lockdown.
Rani George, Secretary, Kerala Tourism, said most of the guests who returned today had used the registration portal of the Swiss consulate, while others sought the help of the Kerala Tourism’s help desks. All the returnees were transported to the airport from different places by the tourism department. “Providing them care is always our top priority,” she pointed out.
P Bala Kiran, Director, Kerala Tourism said the tourism help desks would continue to function and any tourists who are still held up in the state could seek their help. “Our focus now will be to prepare to receive the tourists immediately once the situation normalizes.”
A team of Kerala Tourism officials, led by Joint Director Raj Kumar, had worked for the transportation and repatriation of these foreigners by completing the mandatory requirements.