Federal government pauses flights from India due to unfolding COVID-19 catastrophe

Federal government pauses flights from India due to unfolding COVID-19 catastrophe

The federal government has agreed on a number of new measures to protect Australians from the increased risk of the COVID-19 outbreak in India.

On advice from Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced yesterday that India has been determined to be a high-risk country for the purposes of travel arrangements.

ScoMo said the government will implement a temporary pause on direct passenger flights between India and Australia for two weeks, with consideration of further flights to be made by 15 May 2021.

Passengers on all future flights will be required to have both a negative COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result and a negative rapid antigen test result prior to taking off.

Once flights restart, ScoMo said the government will prioritise the return of vulnerable Australians. Already almost 20,000 registered Aussies have returned from India since the pandemic began.

Restrictions have been placed on outbound travel exemptions to high-risk countries to strictly essential travel only (national interest, medical exemption and COVID-19 purposes).

For indirect flights through Dubai, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, ScoMo said the government is aware that flights to and from these transit points and India have been paused by respective governments.

The new flight measures have cast doubt over eight planned repatriation flights due for take-off from India in May, meaning many Aussies could be left stranded in the South Asian country.

Following consultation with the Indian government, Australia will provide emergency medical supplies to help combat the country combat the current COVID-19 outbreak.

The initial package of support includes rapid deployment of 500 non-invasive ventilators, with capacity to deploy up to a total of 3,000 ventilators.

Australia is also supplying a significant package of personal protective equipment (PPE), including one million surgical masks, 500,000 P2/N95 masks, 100,000 surgical gowns, 100,000 goggles, 100,000 pairs of gloves and 20,000 face shields.

The government has agreed to commence procurement of 100 oxygen concentrators, along with tanks and consumables.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will manage the movement of PPE and equipment over the next week.

“Our government is standing with Australians in India and we recognise the difficulties they face,” ScoMo said in a statement.

“The Hardship Program and consular support continues to be available to Australians in India.

“The current restrictions will be under regular review, as we look to find a solution for those seeking to return to Australia.”


Featured image source: YouTube/ABC News

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