A Qantas plane takes off from the Sydney International airport.(AFP)
A Qantas plane takes off from the Sydney International airport.(AFP)

Covid grounds flyers being repatriated to Australia

  • The Australian government-chartered Qantas flight is capable of flying home 150 Australian citizens and permanent residents stranded in India.
Agencies | , Canberra
PUBLISHED ON MAY 15, 2021 05:19 AM IST

Around half the passengers due to arrive on a flight from India to Australia on Saturday after a two-week travel ban have been grounded because they either have Covid-19 or are considered a close contact of someone who does.

The Australian government-chartered Qantas flight is capable of flying home 150 Australian citizens and permanent residents stranded in India. It will be the first passenger flight between the two countries since Australia imposed a travel ban on April 30.

Australian High Commissioner to India Barry O’Farrell said “a number” of passengers booked to fly would not board the flight in New Delhi on Friday because they had tested positive for Covid.

“I’m disappointed, as are those Australians who will not be on today’s flight,” O’Farrell told Australian Broadcasting Corp. “My team across India has worked hard to assist them, to get bookings on this flight, because they are vulnerable,” O’Farrell added.

There are 10,000 Australian citizens and permanent residents registered with Australian authorities in India as wanting to come home. Almost 1,000 were classified as vulnerable and the Australian government was giving them priority.

More than 40 of the passengers booked on the first flight out tested positive to the virus and around 30 had been rejected because they were considered close contacts, an Australian official told news agency AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

Nine Network News reported that 48 had tested positive and 24 would be left behind because they were considered close contacts.

The flight will land on Saturday in the northern Australian city of Darwin from where the passengers will be taken to a remote quarantine camp.

O’Farrell said the empty seats could not be filled because of the strict health checks that Australia is imposing.

“We’re in the middle of a COVID crisis here in India and it takes at least 24 hours if not longer to get the results of a test,” O’Farrell told Nine.

“So the idea of being able to have people that could quickly take the place is a bit harder than it seems,” he added. O’Farrell said the rejected passengers would be eligible for future flights once they get health clearances.

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