Australians in India who fail a pre-flight coronavirus test will be banned from boarding when rescue planes restart from May 15.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday announced the travel ban would end on its planned expiry date, following a fierce backlash against the harsh measures.
‘The pause that we put in place for travelers coming back from India is working,’ he told reporters in Newcastle.
Scott Morrison (pictured left) is set to announce the restart of Australian repatriation flights from India as 9,000 Australians are stranded in India after travel ban
Up to 200 passengers could be on the first flight, which will likely depart after the temporary travel ban is lifted. Pictured: Passengers from an Air India flight arriving at New Jersey in the United States.
There will be three flights this month to bring back the most urgent cases with 900 vulnerable citizens and permanent residents stranded in India.
All arrivals will be quarantined at the Northern Territory’s Howard Springs mining camp where capacity is set to increase to 2000 beds.
People found to have coronavirus in a pre-flight test will be denied the right to board planes.
Cricket Australia confirmed Steve Smith (pictured) and other players were on route to the Maldives, approximately 2800 kilometres south of Covid-ravaged India.
More than 350,000 Covid cases were recorded in India on Wednesday alone. Pictured: a banquet hall temporarily converted into a coronavirus ward in New Delhi
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said some of those stranded were ‘in great danger’ and would be prioritised when flights were approved. Pictured: Wreath lies on the coffin in Jammu
‘Rapid antigen testing is a requirement and a negative test to get on a flight to Australia. I’m sure that’s what all Australians would expect,’ Mr Morrison said.
The new measures for all resuming flights from India into the Northern Territory, will require passengers to return both a negative COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test and a negative Rapid Antigen test before boarding.
Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner said these measures help Australians return home from India safely, while ensuring the case load at Howard Springs remains manageable.
‘The Territory always stands ready to help our fellow Australians and we were there to help those first Aussies home from Wuhan at the start of this pandemic,’ Chief Minister Gunner said.
‘There is a humanitarian crisis in India and we have the gold standard facility with the health care heroes the country needs at our Centre for National Resilience to help get Australians home safely.
Up to 200 passengers could be on the first flight, which will likely depart almost immediately after the temporary travel ban is lifted.
But the 9000 Australians still stuck in India could face months of waiting to return home with the Asian nation in the grips of a coronavirus catastrophe.
India recorded another grim global world record on Thursday with more than 412,000 new coronavirus cases and almost 4000 deaths.
Mr Morrison said the government did not know how many of the stranded Australians have contracted the disease.
India’s Covid-19 crisis spiked out of control this week with daily deaths exceeding 3,000. Pictured: relatives wearing PPE perform the last rites before cremation of relative who died
The Federal Government will use the Howard Springs quarantine facility (pictured) in the NT to exclusively house Australian travellers fleeing Covid-ravaged India
Scott Morrison has pledged to lift the capacity of Howard Springs (pictured) from 850 to 2000 beds this month
‘We don’t have that information. That is why they are tested before they get on the flight,’ he said.
Cabinet’s national security committee signed off on the decision on Thursday following advice from Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly.
The controversial ban came under heavy fire from within conservative ranks, the Indian-Australian community and human rights groups after the government threatened jail and fines for people who tried to circumvent it.
The government argued it was necessary to ease pressure on quarantine and prevent a third wave breaking out in Australia.
The Federal Court is due to hear Gary Newman’s legal challenge to the ban on Monday, with the Australian man having been stuck in India for more than a year.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said some of those stranded were in great danger and would be prioritised when flights were approved.
Australians are currently banned from entering the country from Covid-ravaged India. Pictured: funeral pyres of coronavirus victims burning in New Delhi as relatives perform last rites at a crematorium