Monday, April 26, 2021

Australia considers banning all flights from India and will send emergency supplies

A ban on all flights from India could be put in place within days under a suite of options the Australian government is considering in response to the country’s worsening COVID-19 outbreak.

The national security committee of cabinet will on Tuesday discuss temporarily halting all repatriation flights out of India, which would prevent thousands of Australians – including cricketers in the Indian Premier League – from getting home.

Australia will also most likely send oxygen, ventilators and personal protective equipment to India as part of an immediate support package to be announced on Tuesday. It will not send vaccines because of its own supply issues and the fact that India has ramped up domestic manufacturing of vaccines.

Infections in India over the past week have surged to the highest level of any country in a seven-day period, adding 2.2 million cases, double the number of cases in the United States during its January peak.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week announced a 30 per cent reduction in flights from India, but Australian authorities are now considering whether a total ban is needed for a period.

The government has been running repatriation flights through Qantas and Air India, but these would come to a halt under the proposal to be considered by cabinet’s national security committee. Some Australians stuck overseas due to the caps on arrivals into state hotel quarantine have argued the border restrictions violate their human rights, with the UN Human Rights Committee recently urging the federal government to allow two Australians to return home while it determines their case.

Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed on Monday that Australia would likely provide ventilators and did not rule out instituting a flight ban.

26/04/21 Anthony Galloway and Eryk Bagshaw/Sydney Morning Herald

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