The mission was launched on May 6 to bring back Indian nationals stranded abroad after the COVID-19 outbreak

The Vande Bharat Mission to repatriate Indian nationals stranded in various countries after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has crossed the 2 million (20 lakh) mark.

According to details available till Thursday, 20.55 lakh (2.06 million) Indians have been repatriated through different modes under this mission, Ministry of External Affairs Official Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said during the weekly media briefing held in a virtual format.

Under phase 7 of the mission which began on October 1, 1,057 international flights would have been operated by the end of this month, repatriating an estimated 1.95 lakh people.

These flights are from 24 countries, including 18 with which India has bilateral air bubble arrangements, reaching 22 airports across India.

"These arrangements have been working satisfactorily and adding to the capacity. We have also started our internal preparations for the next phase," Srivastava said.

The Vande Bharat Mission was launched on May 6 to bring back Indian nationals stranded in different countries due to restrictions imposed after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. They have returned to India through chartered flights, naval ships and land border crossings.

After the government imposed a countrywide lockdown on March 25 to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, all scheduled commercial passenger flights were suspended. Domestic flights were allowed to resume their operations in a phased manner from May 25 onwards.

While flights under the Vande Bharat Mission cover many countries from where Indian nationals want to return home, international flights to and from India continue to be restricted except for those specifically authorized by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The flights are being operated mainly under bilateral air bubble arrangements, which are temporary agreements between two countries. Two countries can have limited air travel under this arrangement in view of the prevailing COVID-19 situation.