Weekend repatriation flights return hundreds of Australians from overseas

View from the window of an airplane at sunset. Aircraft Wing.

Australians stranded overseas have been brought home on rescue flights from around the world, including hundreds of Australians from the Greg Mortimer.

The Easter weekend saw the return of more than 100 Australian and New Zealand passengers stranded on the Aurora Expeditions ship, which touched down in Melbourne on Sunday, after spending three weeks in lockdown off the coast of Montevideo.

Passengers will now be required to self-isolate for 14 days in hotels.

See more: Federal government forms International Aviation Network 

It comes as both Qantas, Virgin Australia and other international airlines continue to conduct repatriation flights on behalf of the federal government.

A group of 444 Australians, including 33 infants returned to Australia, after a Lion Air chartered flight from New Delhi arrived in Melbourne just after 8pm on Sunday.

More than 6,000 are reportedly stuck in India, with two more chartered flights expected to depart India later this week, according to SBS News.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne also advised a Qantas service from Lima to Australia was scheduled to depart Peru on Monday.

Additional flights from Buenos Aires and Johannesburg are expected to be confirmed in the coming days, with the national carrier agreeing to operate a series of repatriation flights over the next week.

“The Australian government is also assisting by ensuring that these flights have the necessary clearances and approvals in countries where Australian airlines normally don’t fly,” Payne told ABC News.

“Some of this is new for Qantas, so we are assisting with that process.”

At least 280 Australians have already left South America on a previously arranged flight, with an agreement struck between the federal government and Qantas.

It comes as an evacuation flight operated by Singapore Airlines from Cambodia brought 184 Australians home, landing in Sydney on Monday.

NSW and federal police officers, along with many ADF personnel and security guards, were at the airport to oversee their boarding on buses, as reported by 9 News.

More than 280,000 Australians have returned in recent weeks, including more than 6,200 who have “safely disembarked” 45 cruise ships around the world, Payne said in a statement.

Returning Australians will be required to spend 14 days in quarantine to ensure they have not contracted COVID-19.

Australia’s chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, has warned that most of Australia’s COVID-19 cases in the coming week are likely to be travellers returning from overseas.

“Two-thirds of our cases in Australia are returned travellers or tourists, mostly around citizens coming back,” Professor Murphy said, as reported by ABC News.

“In fact, it is likely the new cases we will see over the next week will be returned travellers.”

Last week, a spokesperson for Aurora Expeditions told Travel Weekly 128 of the 217 passengers and staff on board the Greg Mortimer had tested positive for COVID-19.

Featured image: iStock.com/Nikolay_Popov

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