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Coronavirus: India evacuates more than 300 Israelis, plans to repatriate 200 more

Despite national lockdown that has caused chaos across India, national carrier Air India repatriates hundreds to Israel
According to Indian news channel NDTV, the Air India flight would not be carrying any passengers on the return leg as it had come on a 'rescue' mission (AFP)

India evacuated more than 300 stranded Israelis on Thursday, and is expected to repatriate another 200 once the Air India jet returns, emptied of its passengers.

India's largest news agency, ANI, reported that 314 Israelis landed in Tel Aviv late Thursday, with another 200 expected to depart from New Delhi on Friday.

"Today, we're evacuating 317 Israelis. In another flight tomorrow, 200 more Israelis to be evacuated," Israel's Ambassador to New Delhi, Ron Malka, was quoted as saying.

"The Indian government has helped us a lot, I want to thank them."

According to NDTV, the Boeing 777 would not be carrying any passengers on the return leg as it had come on a "rescue" mission.

The evacuation came after Israel's Consulate General in Mumbai said several Israelis were trying to fly home after India imposed a nationwide lockdown earlier this week aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The lockdown has severely restricted the movements of people and transport, with some Indians saying they were prepared to walk almost 250km to make it back home.

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Israel has also announced a series of new restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus, including barring people from moving more than 100m from their homes.

Israel has also announced a reduction in public transport and required employers to check workers for fever. 

Anyone entering Israel is required to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also warned that the country may have to impose a full lockdown if cases increase. 

On Friday, Israel recorded 3,035 confirmed cases of the virus with 12 deaths. 

"If we do not see an immediate improvement in the trendline there will be no avoiding a full closure," Netanyahu said in televised remarks. "[The decision] is a matter of a few days [away]. And we are making all of the preparations for it," he said. 

In India, the number of confirmed cases had reached 640, but experts warn the real number of positive cases could be much bigger, as India with its population of 1.3 billion, has one of the lowest testing rates in the world.