Thousands of British citizens stranded in South Asia by the coronavirus lockdown are to return home after the UK government chartered repatriation flights.
The flights will return British citizens to the UK, with priority given to elderly people, those with underlying health conditions and others at risk of developing severe coronavirus symptoms.
Tickets are being part-funded by the government’s £75m scheme to organise repatriation flights from countries where commercial routes have shut down as a result of the pandemic.
Some flights would leave for London on 21, 23, 25 and 26 April, the Foreign Office said. Travellers would also be able to board transfer flights from different airports.
“Foreign Office staff in the UK and South Asia have been working tirelessly with the South Asian authorities to help British travellers who want to come back to the UK, and these flights mean people can now do that,” he said. “Our staff will continue to support those Britons who remain in South Asia throughout this crisis, and beyond.”
Robert Chatterton Dickson, the British high commissioner to South Asia, said the commission in Dhaka would remain open and continue to provide assistance to British nationals.
The repatriation flights are part of wider efforts to bring 7,000 Britons home from south Asia. The government had earlier announced 17 chartered flights from India and 10 from Pakistan, expected to bring home about 4,000 and 2,500 passengers respectively.
More than 7,500 British nationals who do not usually reside in Pakistan have already returned to the UK from the country since the crisis began, according to the Foreign Office.
Meanwhile, another repatriation flight will bring UK nationals back to Britain from Sierra Leone on Wednesday.
British tourists, short-term visitors and their direct dependents in Sierra Leone will be able to book tickets for the special flight for £600 per person, but only those who are normally resident in the UK will be eligible to travel.
The flight will leave Freetown airport on the evening of 22 April, arriving at Stansted in the early hours of 23 April.
Passengers travelling from Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, must report to the Sea Coach terminal in the Aberdeen area of the city between 12 pm and 3 pm on Wednesday.
About 5,000 people are or have been repatriated from India on 21 previously announced flights operating from 8-20 April.
The FCO said it had so far repatriated more than 7,300 people on 35 flights from 13 countries. Another 1.3 million people have returned to the UK on commercial flights since the end of January.
Tens of thousands of Britons, however, are still stranded abroad as a result of the pandemic. The British government has organised fewer repatriation flights than any other major European country except Italy, despite 40% of the 165,000 Europeans stranded around the world being British.
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