Uncertainty for 9,000 Australians stranded in India after flight ban till 15 May; support package for India announced

Australian PM photo grab was taken on 19 April 2021

By SAT News Desk

SYDNEY,27 April 2021: Prime Minister Scott Morrison today at a media conference announced an inbound flight ban from India for two weeks till 15 May and an initial support package to fight the rising COVIDE tide in India. In a nationally televised media conference, PM Scott Morrison said passengers in future flights will require a negative PCR test and a negative Rapid Antigen Test prior to uplift.

Addressing the media the Australian PM said, ” We recognize that this has been a very significant outbreak in India and we know for Australians who have family in India at this time that they will be very distressed. From the scenes we are seeing from India, they are truly heartbreaking.”

Over 9,000 Australians of Indian origin who are either citizens or Permanent Residents are likely to be badly hit by the flight ban. Some people are stranded in India for more than a year and many families are separated. Since March last year, 19,400 Australians have returned from India.

The flight ban will instantly affect two passenger services from India into Sydney and two repatriation flights from India into Darwin impacting around 500 arrivals.

Addressing the media Marise Payne, Minister For Foreign Affairs and Women assured, “…those Australians in India and Indian Australians here that our four Indian network posts remain staffed by Australian diplomats. They will continue to provide that consular assistance to Australians in distress, including through the DFAT’s financial assistance program, and that has of course been in place for many months now. Our posts will also be redoubling their efforts to maintain contact with Australian citizens in India to make sure they are informed about travel settings, any changes and about any changes and about assistance programs. That has been part of their work for many months now, but certainly, in the current circumstances, those efforts will as I said be redoubled.”

The PM also announced passengers on all future flights will require a negative PCR test and a negative Rapid Antigen Test prior to uplift. For indirect flights through Doha, Dubai, Singapore, and Kalua Lumpur flights to and from these transit points and India have already been paused by respective governments.

In a reference to Australian-Indians, the PM said,” …the Australian Government will be reaching out through the Department of Home Affairs directly through the Minister and the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, to engage with the Australian community with Indian descent and reaching out to them, listening to them, engaging in roundtables with community leaders to keep them informed of the information we have available as well as listening to them about what they are hearing on what they are understanding of the experiences of family members and friends and other associates in India. It is very important we remain in close contact with them over the course of what will be a highly stressful period for those Australians who are caught up or have family members affected by this humanitarian crisis in India. And we are very keen to make sure they know that we are standing with them during what is an incredibly difficult time for them and their families and communities.”

Earlier, after the National Cabinet meeting on Friday (23 April) Australia will further restrict outbound travel exemptions to high-risk countries to strictly essential travel only (national interest, medical exemption, and COVID purposes only).

In addition to the flight ban from India, PM Sco Mo today announced an initial package of support to India as soon as possible that includes the supply of 500 non-invasive ventilators,1 million surgical masks, 500,000 P2/N95 Masks,100,000 surgical gowns,100,000 goggles,100,000 pairs of gloves and 20,000 face shields.

In addition, Australia will procure 100 00 oxygen concentrators, along with tanks and consumables for India and the DFAT will manage the movement of PPE and other equipment over the next week.

End COVID For All Campaign spokesman, Reverend Tim Costello Says, ” “COVID is visiting untold misery on the Indian people and it is important for Australia to step up with proportionate, targeted support where it’s needed. Ventilators, oxygen concentrators, protective gowns, goggles, and face shields are on their way to India. This will directly assist nurses, doctors, and health workers to ease and prevent this awful outbreak.

India is a nation with whom we have profound family, cultural and sporting ties. It is heartbreaking to see India battle this outbreak. This support from the Australian people is a good first step and I am confident the Prime Minister will make good on his promise to go further.”

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