All the Sri Lankan Buddhist pilgrims stranded in India because of the coronavirus outbreak have returned to Sri Lanka, the government said.
The last dedicated flight flown by SriLankan Airlines carrying 48 pilgrims departed New Delhi in early morning Sunday before India closed its airport for inward commercial flights.
Earlier in the day, another dedicated SriLankan Airlines aircraft left Chennai with another 97 Buddhist pilgrims to Colombo, the Ministry of Foreign Relations said.
At the time Sri Lanka closed airports in Sri Lanka for inward commercial passenger aircraft, there were approximately 1500 Sri Lankan Buddhist pilgrims in India.
Since then, all these pilgrims left India, earlier by scheduled commercial flights and later by dedicated SriLankan Airlines aircraft that were operated to bring back stranded pilgrims, a Ministry statement said.
“On 21 and 22 March, The High Commission of Sri Lanka in New Delhi and the Deputy High Commission of Sri Lanka in Chennai, in consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Relations and the Ministry of Buddha Sasana, closely coordinated with the SriLankan Airlines offices in New Delhi and Chennai as well as tour groups themselves to facilitate the return of pilgrims,” it added.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa called on the authorities to help bring the pilgrims back as they were stranded in India and running out of money.