As part of an ongoing repatriation effort, the FCO is “working around the clock” to try and bring stranded Britons back to home soil during the coronavirus lockdown. While many commercial flights and airports have now shut down in response to a number of strict border closures, repatriation flights by the government and some commercial flights in partnership with particular airlines continue to fly.
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The FCO posted an update to its Twitter informing Britons of how many people have so far been rescued, as well as the steps the government and partner airlines continue to make.
So far, the FCO estimated around 1.3 million travellers have been returned to the UK since the coronavirus outbreak began.
In a video update, the FCO says: ”We’re bringing British travellers home.
“Since the outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan we estimate that 1.3 million Brits have returned to the UK.
“We’ve worked with governments and airlines to keep routes open and flights running where commercial routes have stopped.
“We’ve organised special charter flights to collect over 1850 people from 12 different countries, and we’ve helped those stuck on cruise ships bringing back over 17,000 people from ships as far apart as California and Japan.
“We know there are still many people stuck abroad and we’re continuing to work with foreign governments and airlines to make more flights available. “We’re working round the clock to support Brits across the world and make sure they have the support they need.”
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However, many more still remained trapped overseas, with an estimated 3,000 in India and around 6,000 marooned in New Zealand alone.
The FCO has announced today it will be bolstering flights to India particularly, meanwhile, commercial routes continue to run where possible to help with the rescue mission.
The repatriation effort was announced by Dominic Raab at the end of March and will see the government putting around £75 million into rescuing UK nationals.
The government has also partnered with UK airlines including British Airways, easyJet, Virgin, Titan and Jet2 to set up a repatriation effort and ensure those who want to fly home are able to do so.
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Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab explained: “The first priority is to keep as many commercial flights running as we can, and that’s based purely on the scale and the number of people who want to come home.
“In circumstances where commercial flights can’t operate, we’ve already chartered flights which proved necessary to return 1,400 UK nationals on flights for example from China at the outset of this crisis and more recently from Peru.”
So what is the process for Britons who are still trapped in foreign countries?
For travellers in countries where commercial routes still run, it is advised that they make every effort to book onto a flight and come home themselves.
Though this may come as an additional expense, the government is urging Britons to come home now if they want to otherwise they may face riding out the COVID-19 pandemic abroad.
Countries, where commercial routes have stopped, are being offered specially chartered flights which can be booked via the FCO website.
A statement on the FCO travel advice page says: “Where commercial routes remain feasible, airlines will be responsible for getting their passengers with pre-booked tickets home. Where commercial routes do not exist, the government will provide up to £75 million to enable UK residents to buy tickets for special charter flights to return home from priority countries.
“If you are in a country where UK-bound flights are still available, book or rebook your flight and return home as soon as possible
“To find out if a special charter flight is available where you are, see the ‘Return to the UK’ section of the country’s travel advice page. This page will also explain who is eligible, how to book a ticket and how much it will cost.
“If there are no commercial or special charter flights for the country you’re in, follow the guidance in the ‘Return to the UK’ section of that country’s travel advice and see our guide to staying where you are if you cannot return home.”
Once payment has been made for a place on the government charter flights travellers are advised that they will receive their itineraries within 24 hours of the flight’s departure.
A tweet issued by FCO travel advice explained:
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