Russia has paused the evacuation of tens of thousands of its citizens stuck overseas due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused many countries to ban international commercial flights in their battle to contain the spread of the disease.
Russia on April 4 canceled all flights to return citizens from abroad to prevent the import of the virus, local media reported. However, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said later that day that the government was only taking a pause to better plan their return.
She said the government would create a new timetable of flights for citizens by April 6, but gave no date for when all citizens seeking to return would be flown back.
Golikova said the temporary halt of flights was necessary “for a clear understanding" of who the citizens are, how many there are, and what their Russian destination is, she said.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has said that there are more than 30,000 Russian citizens currently abroad while Golikova said about 26,000 are seeking to be evacuated.
However, she said the government has not been able to identify half of the citizens seeking to return.
Furthermore, she also said the government wants to fly as many people as possible directly to their home city because the nation's international airports don't have enough space to keep so many passengers under observation. All passengers will be asked to quarantine themselves at home for 14 days, she said.
About two-thirds of Russian citizens asking to be evacuated are based in Thailand, which recently announced onerous requirements for foreigners to legally extend their stay. Thailand is a popular destination for Russians, many of whom spend winters in the Southeast Asian country.
Russians seeking to return home are required to fill out an online form and wait for the government to give them a return flight date.
The government has given the Foreign Ministry 500 million rubles ($6.25 million) to help passengers stranded. The ministry will pay a daily allowance for the days citizens are stuck in other countries starting from the day of their originally booked return flight until the day of their evacuation.
The ministry will pay adults 2,400 rubles ($30) per day while children under 14 will receive 1,600 ($20).
Reporting by RBC, Kommersant, and Rossiyskaya Gazeta