Out of 150 Australian citizens who were supposed to fly back home on the first repatriation flight out of India, over 40 have tested positive for Covid-19 and therefore been removed from the passenger list, reported The Guardian.
The number of passengers who may be prohibited from travelling back to Australia potentially increases to over 70 if the close contacts of those who tested Covid-19 positive was considered, according to the newspaper. The flight to Australia is supposed to leave New Delhi for Darwin on Saturday.
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.
The Australian government will resume repatriation flights for some of its “vulnerable citizens” in India on Saturday after a controversial ban ends. Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government had imposed a temporary ban on anyone who had been in India within 14 days of their intended arrival date in Australia.
The administration also said that the travellers could face up to five years in jail or fines. Around 10,000 Australians have reportedly registered to return from India and 1,000 among them were said to be vulnerable.
The passengers on the repatriation flight were administered the first Covid test 48 hours before boarding, The Guardian reported. They will take a second test eight hours before flying.
Australia’s High Commissioner to India Barry O’Farrell expressed disappointment about those who would not be able to return to the country after testing positive for Covid-19. “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,” he told ABC in an interview. “Until such time that they test negative they will not be able to fly on one of these facilitated flights.”
Australian politician Penny Wong, the Labor party spokesperson on foreign affairs, noted one of the stories of a man from Melbourne who had tested positive for Covid-19. The man, identified as Sunny, has booked two seats on the repatriation flight for him and his elderly mother. “We just want to know what is going on,” Sunny told ABC. “If I die, the Australian government will be responsible.”
Wong tweeted that the situation that Australians like “Sunny and his mother are in is heartbreaking”. She also criticised the Morrison government for failing to “act on safe, national quarantine and put in place a plan to bring home stranded Aussies months ago”.
On Friday, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that a flight from the country had arrived in New Delhi to pick up Australian citizens and also ferried oxygen equipment for India, according to PTI.
Payne said the passengers from India would undergo a strict quarantine at the Centre for National Resilience at Howard Springs in the Northern Territory.
The next Australian government-facilitated commercial flight from India was likely to arrive in Darwin on May 23 and arrangements for more such flights were underway, reported PTI.
India on Friday registered 3,43,144 new Covid-19 infections in 24 hours and 4,000 fatalities. This pushed the country’s case count to 2,40,46,809 since the pandemic broke out in January last year. The toll rose to 2,62,317.