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Half of 150 Australians booked to return from India barred from travelling after Covid test

Among the 150 people who were to fly out of New Delhi for Australia on a repatriation flight, over 40 people have tested positive for Covid-19. The passengers have now been taken off the flyers’ list for the flight on Saturday.

Australia has started repatriation flights from India for its stranded citizens in the country amid a deadly spread of Covid-19 cases in the country. While over 40 have tested positive for Covid, another 70 who were in close contact have also been barred from flying.

Almost half of the total number of stranded Australians who were to fly home from India have now been barred from returning.

The flight was to leave for Australia early on Saturday and the repatriated Australians were to quarantine at a special facility, reported The Guardian.

The report further said that about 10,000 Australians and permanent residents have registered with the Australian government wanting to return from India. About 1,000 of these people have been deemed vulnerable.

The repatriation flights facilitated by the Australian government for its stranded citizens in India resumed from Friday. According to foreign minister Marise Payne, the flight on Friday departed from Sydney to pick up Australian passengers in New Delhi before arriving back in Darwin on Saturday.

With 3,43,144 people testing positive for coronavirus in a day, India’s Covid-19 tally of cases climbed to 2,40,46,809, while the death toll rose to 2,62,317 with 4,000 daily fatalities on Friday.

Payne said the passengers would have to undergo a strict quarantine to make sure they are not carrying the variant of the coronavirus first identified in India.

This was the first flight after the Australian government imposed a temporary ban recently with a threat of criminal sanctions, including five years in jail and fines of up to 66,000 Australian dollars for people who try to return from India.

Payne said this temporary pause had helped mitigate the risk of potentially higher rates of infection presenting on arrival in Australia and ensured the quarantine system was able to receive further flights.

“These government-facilitated flights will be focused on returning Australian citizens, residents and families who have registered with our High Commission and consular offices within India and will prioritise the most vulnerable people,” the minister said.

Saturday’s flight into Darwin brings the total number of government facilitated commercial flights from India to 39 returning over 6,400 Australians since March 2020.

The next government-facilitated commercial flight from India is expected to arrive in Darwin on May 23 and arrangements for further facilitated flights into Australia are underway.

Meanwhile, Australia is sending essential life-saving oxygen equipment to India on the repatriation flight.

Australia has now delivered over 15 tonnes of medical supplies to India, including over 2,000 ventilators and more than 100 oxygen concentrators.

Payne also praised the response of Australian businesses and everyday Australians and welcomed the support offered from state and territory governments.

(With inputs from PTI)

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