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Ian Brownlee, the official dealing with consular affairs said that about 1,500 Americans in the New Delhi area, between 600 and 700 in the Mumbai area and 300 to 400 elsewhere had expressed interest in returning home…reports Arul Louis from New York

New Delhi: Air India flight from Rome, Italy landed at IGI Airport in New Delhi at 9.15 AM with 263 evacuees, on March 22, 2020. All the evacuees have been taken to ITBP Chhawla Quarantine Facility, New Delhi. An ITBP team received the evacuees and conducted thermal screening on them. (Photo: IANS) by .
Air India flight from Rome landed at IGI Airport in New Delhi. (Photo: IANS)

The US government was arranging to airlift American citizens stuck in India because of the lockdown imposed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a State Department official.

Ian Brownlee, the official dealing with consular affairs, said on Friday: “We are working directly with both US and foreign carriers to lay on aircraft direct from India to the US,” to bring them back.

He said that the flights could start in about three days, “but it’s the permitting that takes a while both in India and the US”.

Last week, the State Department issued a “Level 4” travel alert advising its citizens not to travel internationally and asking those abroad to return home.

India is under a lockdown to fight the coronavirus pandemic with all commercial passenger flights cancelled.

 by . Brownlee said that about 1,500 Americans in the New Delhi area, between 600 and 700 in the Mumbai area and 300 to 400 elsewhere had expressed interest in returning home.

He said that a church group has chartered a large aircraft to bring 150 or so Americans from India and the State Department was helping them get the necessary permits for the plane.

He said that an American citizen, who had tested positive for the virus in Bhutan, was brought back to the US about 10 days ago and “is doing very well”.

The principal deputy assistant secretary was briefing reporters about help for American citizens abroad affected by the pandemic and visas for doctors to come to the US.

US President Donald Trump, from left, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the Centres for Disease Control, and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar at a White House news conference on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, to discuss the threat of coronavirus. (Photo: White House) by .
US President Donald Trump, from left, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the Centres for Disease Control, and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar at a White House news conference. (Photo: White House)

Brownlee said that while routine visa services were suspended, visas would be processed for medical personnel already accepted in US programmes. But he added, “We are not going out looking for others.”

He said globally the State Department was looking about 33,000 citizens stranded abroad due to lockdowns and/or cancellation of flights who wanted help returning home.

Some Americans have decided to wait out the curfew or the quarantine where they are and many of them are expats with homes in the countries they are located in, the official added.

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