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COVID cases mean Australia repatriation flight from India not full

May 15, 2021 4:34 am
[Source: The Australian]

Dozens of passengers booked on Australia’s first repatriation flight from India will reportedly not be able to take it after testing positive for COVID or being close contacts of cases.

The flight was supposed to bring 150 Australian citizens home following a backlash over a three-week ban on anyone entering from Covid-hit India.

But local media reports suggest the plane may now take off half empty.

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Australia’s strict rules mean the seats cannot be given to others in the queue.

There are 9,500 Australians stranded in India at the moment, including 950 people registered as vulnerable and 173 unaccompanied minors.

The tough measures were introduced due to the escalating Covid crisis in India. The country’s healthcare system has been engulfed as infection rates soared in recent weeks. Many people have died without getting treatment as hospital beds and medical oxygen ran out.

The plane – leaving Delhi on Friday evening and due to arrive in Darwin on Saturday – was the first of six scheduled flights due to bring back the vulnerable citizens.

The Australian government announced the flights following an outcry over a three-week ban on all arrivals from India in an effort to block virus transmission. Citizens who attempted to fly home were warned they could face jail or fines – although this threat was later played down.

However, critics have said the proposed rescue effort is too small and excludes most Australians stuck in India. They’ve called for more support, and for commercial airlines to be allowed to fly from India to Australia.

Australia has had some of the strictest border measures in the world, with the numbers allowed to enter tightly controlled.

It has meant many Australians have struggled to return to the country, including Sunny Joura. He has been trying to get home for the past 11 months, only to test positive for Covid hours before he would have been flown home on Friday’s repatriation flight.

“All of these 11 plus months I was a negative. But I was not able to return because of the Australian government. If I die [from Covid] the Australian government will be responsible,” he told ABC news.

He described his fears about his current situation and if his health deteriorated.

“I know people who are influential, they also are not able to get any medical help right now. There is lack of oxygen supply. A lot of people I know have died. Young people as well, not only old people.

“It is just destiny now, it is just my bad luck. So I do not know what is going to happen next, I just have to take one thing at a time.”

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