Passengers walk into Kempegowda International Airport in Bangalore after India resumed domestic flights. Chinese citizens stranded in the country will leave on five chartered flights this week. Photo: EPA-EFE
After being stuck alone in a flat in the southern Indian city of Bangalore for three months and in India for about 130 days, Chinese marketing professional Wang Mingtao will fly to Chongqing this week and is looking forward to finally being able to hug his two children when he returns to Jiangsu province after completing his quarantine.
The 37-year-old is among an estimated 1,000 Chinese citizens booked on five chartered flights bound for China between June 8 and 12 as Beijing continues to evacuate citizens from countries hard hit by the Covid-19 outbreak.
India has surpassed Spain as the fifth worst-affected country, with cases surging to 246,628 on Sunday. On Monday, the country of 1.3 billion people further eased lockdown restrictions by allowing the reopening of shopping centres and restaurants.
An Indian traveller wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) is seen at Kempegowda International Airport in Bangalore after domestic flights resumed. Photo: EPA-EFE
Wang, who works for Chinese multinational company, landed in New Delhi on February 2 on what he thought was a regular bimonthly business trip.
But two days later, India announced a ban on the entry of Chinese nationals as the mainland battled the initial stages of the outbreak. Wang wanted to return home but his colleagues who handle operations and technical roles were unable to travel from China and he had to stay in Bangalore and fill in for them.
Then on March 24, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a lockdown and international flights were suspended two days later. They will only restart later this month.
Wang tried to register for commercial chartered flights organised by the Chinese community in Bangalore and was willing to pay 20,000 yuan (US$2,800) for a seat, but he was not successful.
On Friday, after travelling from Bangalore to Mumbai, he will board an Air China flight back home.
About 90 per cent of Chinese nationals currently in India – about 2,800 people – registered for the flights, but the Chinese embassy in New Delhi did not respond to a question on exactly how many would be repatriated.
When the embassy gave him a choice of departing from Mumbai, New Delhi or Kolkata, he chose Mumbai as it is the worst-hit city, with about one-fifth of all Covid-19 cases in India.
“I thought others might not want to go to Mumbai so I would have a higher chance of getting on a flight from there,” he said.
Wang has to pay 12,381 yuan (US$1,747) for the one-way ticket, which is almost four times the regular fare. And he has to bear the additional cost of mandatory two-week quarantine once he lands in China.
“As a foreigner here, I feel that it might be difficult to get treatment if I am infected,” he said, adding that people in Bangalore had become more relaxed as social distancing restrictions were eased in recent weeks, and were gathering outside without wearing masks.
Wang said he has been very cautious, limiting his trips outside the flat and relying on online grocery orders. But he has not experienced any hostile treatment, even as tensions on the India-China border in the Himalayas stirred feelings of nationalism, with calls to boycott Chinese products in India.
Wang still sees India as a huge and complicated market full of opportunities for any Chinese company, and is keen to visit again, perhaps next year once the pandemic is under control.
Most of the Chinese nationals waiting to fly home have similar stories. Some came for business, some as tourists, and about 240 students are studying at Indian institutions. They were all stranded when the restrictions were imposed and many are desperate to leave as coronavirus cases continue to rise in India.
Chinese traveller Du Fengyan is seen at New Delhi airport as he waits to board a repatriation flight back to China on Monday June 8. Photo: Handout
Chinese traveller Du Fengyan, 35, is among those selected to fly back on a chartered flight. He will leave Delhi for Shanghai late on Monday, and will return to work in Beijing once he has completed his quarantine.
Du said if he had not received confirmation from the Chinese embassy that he was on the flight, he would have remained in India and tried to resume his planned motorbike trip around the country, which was halted by the nationwide lockdown. He experienced xenophobia and racial slurs related to the pandemic as he travelled through India in February and March.
He hopes to return to India when he has an opportunity to do so, and has left his bike with a friend in Bangalore so he can continue with the trip.
“I met many good friends when I was travelling around India by bicycle in 2012, I wish to visit them again this time. But it seems we both have to wait,” he said.
from: Luo Ruiyao