As the fifth phase of Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) is coming to an end on August 31, the Indian Government is working on expanding the geographical reach of its repatriation mission during the sixth phase that begins on September 1.
After successfully arranging individual bilateral travel bubbles with USA, UK, France, Germany, UAE, Qatar, and Maldives, India is now negotiating with 13 more countries to create air bubbles for resuming international flight operations.
Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri made this announcement Tuesday on Twitter. According to it, India is looking forward to restoring air connectivity (through travel bubbles) with these 13 countries — Australia, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Nigeria, Bahrain, Israel, Kenya, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand.
Stating that similar travel arrangements with other countries are underway, he tweeted, “Air bubbles have also been proposed with our neighbors Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal & Bhutan. Going forward, we will consider such arrangements with other countries also. It is always our endeavor to reach out to every stranded citizen. No Indian will be left behind.”
What is a travel/air bubble?
Also known as travel bridges or corona corridors, the air bubble refers to the temporary bilateral agreement between countries under which the airlines of respective countries will be allowed to operate international flights within the designated zone. Travelers of these countries will be benefited as this agreement exempts them from requiring to undergo on-arrival quarantine.
In the current COVID situation, India is entirely reliant on travel bubbles for international travel. Scheduled international passenger flights have been suspended in India since March 23, with the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. However, India’s mission (VBM) to evacuate stranded Indians abroad is in full swing. Under this repatriation mission that started on May 7, more than 11 lakh stranded Indians across the world have been brought back home, and more than 152K foreign nationals have flown out of the country so far.
Meanwhile, Indian airlines also began domestic flight operations (with reduced capacity) on May 25 after a hiatus of two months due to the nationwide lockdown.