A detailed two-month evacuation plan to bring back 3,027 Bahrainis stranded around the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic has been shared with the country’s legislators.
At an urgent meeting held yesterday at the National Assembly Complex in Gudaibiya, the government revealed that there are 43,699 Bahrainis currently living, working, studying and stranded abroad.
Of those, a total of 3,027 have expressed their desire to return to Bahrain and have registered with the government’s International Covid-19 Repatriation Programme (ICRP).
The GDN has learned that 18 flights alone have been designated to bring back 1,630 Bahrainis in Iran, from today until May 28, while direct flight arrangements for the others have been made with Gulf Air depending on available destinations and accessibility.
The 18 flights are as follows: Shiraz (April 13), Tehran (April 6, April 27, May 4 and May 18), Mashhad (April 2, April 9, April 16, April 23, April 30, May 7, May 14, May 21, May 25, and May 28), and Lorestan (today, April 20 and May 11).
There are 213 Bahrainis in Egypt, 364 in Jordan, 250 in the UK, 68 in Germany, 56 in Russia, 54 in Thailand and 34 in Saudi Arabia, while the remaining are in various other countries.
Present at yesterday’s meeting were Health Minister Faeqa Al Saleh, Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani, Parliament and Shura Council Affairs Minister Ghanim Al Buainain, along with a group of MPs, headed by Parliament chairwoman Fouzia Zainal, and other senior government officials.
“We have faced issues in airlines refusing to bring back the citizens, there were air spaces that were blocked, and insurance companies that refused to take Bahrainis on board,” said Parliament second vice-chairman MP Ali Al Zayed.
“The government wanted to bring back Bahrainis as early as possible, but the safety of our medics is as important and we can’t flood the system – we had to sort out the capacity and securing sites, which meant delays.
“Now there are 500 beds alone for the ICU and there is an army of volunteers who are ready to step in besides involvement from the private medical institutions.
“Therefore, a flow of citizens arriving from abroad over two months will be manageable, even if 6,000 Bahrainis sign up rather than the current around 3,000.”
Parliament’s foreign affairs, defence and national security committee chairman MP Mohammed Al Sissi said the channels were still open for other Bahrainis to register to be evacuated.
“The government is facing trouble getting people back due to lockdowns in certain countries and the refusal of particular airlines to participate, but the government has a plan and it is being fast-tracked, especially with the larger number in Iran,” he said.
“The numbers of those allowed on board an aircraft have been reduced to provide social distancing.
“There are 120 individuals from various specialisations waiting at the airport for the arrivals and the whole process is taken care of by 10,000 people and all are at risk – this is why Bahrain is very careful and is handling things with higher professional standards.”
Meanwhile, 31 Bahrainis who were stranded in Qatar after arriving from Iran were brought back to Bahrain yesterday via a chartered flight.
During yesterday’s meeting Mr Al Zayani criticised the irresponsible acts by Qatar in which it flew Bahraini passengers without consulting with the government and jeopardising the safety of crew and passengers on board, while breaching IATA rules.
Ms Al Saleh also said that the capacity of all medical arrangements has been increased besides the involvement of volunteers to deal with any future circumstance.
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