Australia confirmed that chartered repatriation flights to the Centre for National Resilience at Howard Springs for Australians returning from India will resume. Restrictions began on April 27 and resulted in two official evacuation flights being cancelled that week.
The government said that since the pause on flights from India commenced there has been a sustained reduction in Covid-19 positive cases originating from India in Australia’s quarantine system.
It revealed that the number of Covid-19 positive cases in the Howard Springs has fallen to 21, from more than 50 cases a week ago, and positive cases associated with previous facilitated flights from India are on track to reach zero by 14 May.
Mr Morrison said that the pandemic “continues to rage outside Australia’s borders and the temporary pause on flights continues to give our quarantine facilities time to reduce infection rates and reduce the risk of Covid escaping into the community.”
“Closing our international borders and the use of quarantine for returning Australians has protected the health of all Australians during the pandemic and given us a way of life that is the envy of the world,” he said.
The Australian prime minister said that he has written to state and territory leaders to invite their participation in receiving direct repatriation flights from India over the coming weeks to further assist the efforts in Howard Springs.
The Repatriation flights into Howard Springs will resume on May 15 with one flight per 7-9 days. An estimated 1,000 Australians are expected to return by the end of June and “vulnerable Australians will be prioritised on these flights.”
In May, three repatriation flights will be scheduled from India including one on May 15 to Darwin.
However, Australia’s ban on direct commercial passenger flights between India and Australia remains in place and will be reviewed shortly. The restrictions on travel exemptions for Australians seeking to travel to India will also continue.
The Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner, in a statement, 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.”
Australia also said that as India’s “close friend and comprehensive strategic partner” it stands with India which currently is battling a surge in Covid-19 cases.
It is estimated that more than 20,000 Australians have returned through repatriation flights since the pandemic started.