Vande Bharat Mission: Returnees paid for quarantine at expensive hotels
Indians who managed to return home, at a time when coronavirus-induced travel restrictions have been levied on most parts of the globe, are now facing another challenge — exorbitant hotel rates. Several fliers who were repatriated as part of Centre's historic Vande Bharat Mission claimed they paid for quarantine facilities at five-star hotels. A cheaper option wasn't made available to them.
Bring them home: What is the Vande Bharat Mission?
Starting May 7, the External AffairsMinistry, started bringing Indians, who have been stuck across the globe, due to coronavirus, home. Those who have lost their jobs, have health-related concerns, or wish to return home after the death of a family member were preferred. In the first phase, 64 flights brought nearly 15,000 home and in the second, 32,000 are expected to be repatriated.
Expensive quarantine hurt some passengers
Last Sunday, the first Air India flight from London landed in Mumbai and several of the 326 passengers said they paid for a 14-day quarantine at hotels. The bill went as high as Rs. 100,000. A 60-year-old retired government official disclosed he and 50 other passengers shed somewhere around Rs. 87,000 for quarantine at a five-star hotel in Santacruz, reports HT.
Passenger said he spent almost Rs. 200,000
The passenger said he spent almost Rs. 200,000 for his wife and himself in a matter of five days. This includes the flight ticket which costs Rs. 49,660 per head. According to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), all returnees are sent to institutional quarantine. Those showing symptoms are sent to isolation wards in hospitals. All fliers are informed of this cost during booking.
Flier booked a cheaper hotel, was sent to expensive one
The senior citizen said he opted for a cheaper hotel at the time of booking, but was "upgraded" to a five-star one at the last minute. "The entire process is being handled in an unprofessional manner without consulting experts," he claimed. Another 46-year-old returnee, who suffers from kidney problems, was taken to a hotel closer to his residence in Thane.
Have shed Rs. 63,000 in quarantine: Passenger
"My parents are heart patients and I returned from London to take care of them. I am currently 15 minutes away from home but can only speak to my family over the phone. I have already paid Rs. 63,000 for the isolation period," he added.
To address concerns, BMC said passengers needn't pay at once
There was another passenger who claimed even low-risk passengers were being sent for quarantine. The Khar resident said she lives alone and poses no threat to anyone, yet was sent to a hotel. On its part, BMC said some issues were flagged after the first flight landed, and subsequent directions were passed to resolve them. BMC said passengers can pay for quarantine in installments.
Five star hotels are offering rooms at concessional rates: BMC
"The problems were only faced for passengers on the first flight. Thereafter, 10 five-star hotels are now offering rooms at a concessional rate for Rs. 4,000 inclusive of all meals and facilities per day," said BMC's additional municipal commissioner P Velrasu.
The retired official said staff seemed careless
The elderly also claimed protocols were violated at the airport and that most of the staff weren't wearing gloves or masks, and distancing rules were flouted. "A day after our flight, we read reports that one of the airport staff was tested positive for COVID-19. My wife and I are both scared that we may have contracted the virus at the airport," he alleged.
Airport staff wear PPE at all times: Spokesperson
Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) said issues were faced by the first batch of returnees and things got streamlined later. "All the airport staff are using personal protective equipment without which CISF does not allow them to enter," a spokesperson said. He added passengers exited the airport late because of the exhaustive measures, including screening, filling forms, immigration, and downloading the Aarogya Setu app.