Australians Back Home As India Travel Ban Ends, 72 Barred From Flight

Marco Green
May 15, 2021

The first repatriation flight carrying Australians stranded in India landed in Darwin on Saturday following the end of the federal government's controversial ban on them from returning home.

SYDNEY, May 14 ― almost half the 150 passengers booked on Australia's first repatriation flight from India were barred from boarding today, after they or their close contacts tested positive for the coronavirus, an Australian government source said.

Other Australian citizens will not be substituted on the list of passengers on the repatriation flight due to the strict travel guidelines during the Covid-19 crisis.

"These government-facilitated flights will be focused on returning Australian citizens, residents and families who have registered with our high Commission and consular offices within India and will prioritise the most vulnerable people", Ms Payne said.

Anyone who presents a positive COVID-19 result will be refused entry into Australia, as too will their close contacts, should any also booked on the flight.

More than 40 people who tested positive along with about 30 of their close contacts were barred from returning on QF 112, which had a Covid-safe capacity of 150 seats.

Their Quantas flight was originally scheduled to carry 150 people onboard.

"Regrettably those people will have to return home and deal with the Covid that they have, or continue to isolate to prove that they don't have Covid". Payne said that a flight today departed from Sydney to pick up Australian passengers in New Delhi before arriving back in Darwin on Saturday.

This system has largely helped Australia keep its COVID-19 numbers relatively low, with just over 29,950 cases and 910 deaths.

The government later made it a formal crime for anyone to attempt the trip, punishable with a $66,000 fine.

The Australian government had introduced the travel ban for its residents and citizens a fortnight ago to mitigate the risk of high infection rate at its quarantine facilities, including the Howard Springs centre in Darwin.

They will be some of the most vulnerable cases among the 9,000 stranded in the Covid-ravaged sub-continent, which is racking up an average of 300,000 new infections a day.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the controversial weeks-long "pause" had worked.

The suspension of flights from India ends at midnight local time on Friday.

The flight from Australia to India on Friday to bring back the Australians carried 1,056 ventilators, 60 oxygen concentrators and other essential supplies, adding to medical equipment sent last week.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) did not immediately respond to request for comment from Reuters.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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