Australia bans flights from India due to COVID-19 surge

Published on : Friday, April 30, 2021

Australia has announced a ban on all flights to and from India amid the devastating second COVID-19 wave surging across the country. The prime minister, Scott Morrison, announced that all flights to and from India shall be suspended with immediate effect until 15 May to prevent virus transmission across borders.

The decision was taken at the national security committee’s meeting on Tuesday.

Australia has also decided to end a relief package to India that includes at least one million surgical masks and 500 ventilators for the ones battling COVID-19.

Mr Morrison told the media that they recognise that this has been a very significant outbreak in India. Today we agreed, in addition to the measures that I announced after the last national Cabinet meeting, to pause direct passenger flights between India and Australia until 15 May.

Australia had already paused, Mr Morrison said, all indirect flights coming in from India by key transit hubs like Doha. Australians flying to India has already been banned given the catastrophe unfolding in the country.

India officially reported 323,000 new cases on Tuesday and 2,771 deaths in a single day spike. The country has been reporting more than 300,000 cases every single day for the past six days straight.

Delhi registered more than 20,000 cases on Tuesday and reported 380 Covid deaths. However, there are now increasing reports that the Narendra Modi-led government is under-reporting COVID related deaths across the country.

Delhi hospitals have been sending SOS calls to the government for want of oxygen cylinders for a few weeks now. Thousands of lives are at risk due to the shortage of oxygen. Other states including Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana have also been reporting a shortage of oxygen.

In smaller cities and towns, the condition is even worse. Due to lack of any kind of government support, social media seen pleas for help from families and friends of Covid-positive cases across the country.

Meanwhile, New Zealand announced it was resuming travel to Perth. The nation’s Covid-19 response minister, Chris Hipkins, said quarantine-free travel shall resume between New Zealand and Western Australia from midday on Tuesday. Perth and the nearby Peel Region went into lockdown on Friday after a Covid-19 cluster was identified at a quarantine hotel, RNZ News reported.

The Perth and Peel lockdown ended on Tuesday, and Mr Hipkins announced travel would soon resume.

On Tuesday, the Western Australia state premier Mark McGowan also alleged that the Covid-19 tests conducted in India for returning travellers are either “unreliable or inaccurate.”

He was quoted by local media saying: “We obviously have a problem with India. Some of the tests conducted in India either aren’t accurate or aren’t believable and clearly, that’s causing some issues here.”

Earlier, the Indian government had also lashed out at The Australian newspaper for reproducing an article with the headline “Modi leads India into viral apocalypse” and said that it showed the prime minister, Mr Modi, in a poor light. The Indian consulate in Canberra had asked the paper to put the “record straight.”

Repatriation flights for Australians in India — of which there are about 9,000 — are being organised even as regular flights from the country are banned.

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