by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / pic by TMR FILE PIX
MULTIPLE flights brought hundreds of Malaysians back from Iran, India and Uzbekistan over the weekend as part of the government’s latest repatriation mission amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some 630 Malaysian citizens were evacuated from the three countries, with arrivals from Iran being placed under strict quarantine at a designated facility in Nilai, Negri Sembilan.
Iran, the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak in the Middle East, has recorded 20,610 cases and 1,556 deaths so far.
AirAsia flight D7680 from Tehran arrived at 6.33am yesterday, carrying 55 passengers comprising 46 Malaysians, eight Singaporeans and an Indonesian. Fifteen flight crew and eight government officials were involved in the mission.
Upon their arrival in Kuala Lumpur (KL), all on board were screened and escorted to a facility where they will be quarantined for the next 14 days.
Concurrently, two flights from Chennai and Trichy from India had arrived on the same day at 4.10am and 6.48am respectively, carrying a total of 372 passengers. All on board are subjected to 14 days of self-quarantine at home.
Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Kamarudin Jaffar said six other AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines planes have been chartered, pending approval from local authorities, to bring back another 1,323 Malaysians from India.
The flight from Uzbekistan arrived on Saturday at 9pm. A total of 212 Malaysians were repatriated from Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, via a flight borne fully by the Uzbekistan government. The same carrier was later used to repatriate 200 Uzbekistan citizens at 11.30pm on the same day.
Kamarudin, who is also the ministry’s Covid-19 task force chairman, said the government would continue to monitor Malaysians abroad to ensure those stranded would be brought home immediately.
He had previously said Malaysia would hold further talks with the Italian government on the repatriation of some 82 Malaysians stranded in Rome.
The mission from Italy was scheduled to arrive in KL at 6.10am today, but the flight hit a snag after the Italian Civil Aviation Authority denied landing permission to all inbound flights.
”We are still working to negotiate with the Italian government to grant us an exception to continue with our repatriation mission as soon as possible,” Kamarudin said, adding that new developments on the matter will be updated from time to time.
He said those evacuated from Italy must undergo a 14-day quarantine at a designated government facility upon their arrival.
Italy has become a hotbed for the disease in Europe with nearly 5,000 deaths and over 50,000 cases reported at press time.
The Italian government has since ordered the closure of all operations except essential businesses until April 3.