A number of passengers were unable to board the Qantas flight from New Delhi after testing positive for Covid-19, and close contacts were also barred from boarding, according to the Australian Foreign Office. and Commerce (DFAT).
The Australian government’s aggressive ban on travelers to the country has proven to be controversial; The ministers were charged with racism after threatening five years in jail for anyone who violated the restrictions.
Saturday’s trip was the first of a handful to bring home 9,000 Australians stranded in India in the coming weeks. The next flight is scheduled for May 23, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Friday.
After arriving, travelers are to spend two weeks in quarantine at a converted mining camp in Howard Springs, Northern Territory, Reuters reports.
“We are taking medical advice and making sure to protect Australians here and I’m happy that this first flight has happened, and there will obviously be more flights to come,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said in a televised briefing, added the news agency. .
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“It’s important to do the tests we’re doing now, before people get on those planes for Australia. This is the process that we are following, and we will continue to follow it. “
India is grappling with a devastating coronavirus outbreak, reporting 326,098 other infections and 3,890 new deaths on Saturday. It has seen nearly 25 million recorded cases of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.
In total, around 9,000 Australians in India have registered with the federal government, asking to return home.
But the total ban on arrivals from India has met with strong opposition from the Australian Indian community, human rights activists and even members of the government itself.
Government Senator Matt Canavan said in a tweet earlier this month that fixing Australia’s quarantine system was more important than “leaving our fellow Australians stranded”.
“We should help Australians get back to India, not jail them,” he said.
Payne said Saturday’s flight brought the total number of government-facilitated flights during the pandemic from India to 39, more than 6,400 Australians since March 2020.
Since the start of the pandemic, DFAT has helped more than 45,700 Australians re-enter on more than 500 flights, including more than 18,800 people on 128 government-facilitated flights, a DFAT spokesperson told CNN.