The novel coronavirus pandemic has now affected 185 countries around the globe. With over 557,500 cases as of Monday afternoon, the United States is the worst affected country by far. Over 22,000 people in the country have died.
With the situation looking rather grim at the moment, it is perhaps not very surprising that not everyone wants to go back to the US. According to a report in a leading daily, many Americans stranded in India are opting no not return.
For context, the US has been running special government-organized repatriation flights to take stranded Americans back to the western country.
As per an April 9 message on the Embassy’s website, “the U.S. Mission India is facilitating a series of flights to the United States this week”. The website added that for any person wishing to return, “now is the time to act”.
A recent PTI report quoted Alice G Wells, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia as saying that around 1,300 American citizens have been brought back from India as of April 6th, but it was “difficult to say with any certainty how many Americans intend or need assistance in repatriating to the US”.
“We have had over 7,000 register with the US embassy and consulate,” she had said during a teleconference.
In a Special Briefing on April 6, Ian Brownlee the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Consular Affairs on COVID-19 said that while “multiple thousands” had initially expressed interest, “our staff in India literally cold-called 800 people asking if they wanted to get on a flight today”.
“We got 10 positive responses, 10 out of 800 calls. So that’s just an indication of the uncertainty of some of these numbers we’re looking at,” he had said, adding that the US was tracking “about 24,000, maybe 25,000 people” who continued to be in their list as “having expressed some interest”.
A secondary factor might be the cost involved. These flights are not free, and as per a Health Alert from the US Mission to India that has been posted on the Embassy website, “all passengers will need to reimburse the U.S. government for the cost of the flight”.
The update adds that previous flights have cost individuals between $2,000 and $2,500 per person.