Flights to and from India into Australia have been suspended until May 15 amid increasing concerns over the nation’s escalating Covid-19 situation.
“We recognise that this has been a very significant outbreak in India,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters after a national security committee meeting this afternoon.
“Today we agreed, in addition to the measures that I announced after the last national Cabinet meeting, to pause direct passenger flights between India and Australia until the 15th of May.”
The news came just before Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced New Zealand will resume quarantine-free travel with Western Australia from midday tomorrow.
Hipkins said the Government was satisfied that the risk was low for resuming quarantine-free travel, based on the advice of director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
Australia’s PM had come under increasing pressure to lock down Australia’s border with India and take a tougher line on international travel amid revelations that Aussies were still jetting overseas despite travel bans.
The snap three-day lockdown in Perth that ended overnight was sparked by a man’s overseas trip to India to attend his own wedding.
Morrison last week announced that arrivals from India would be cut by 30 per cent, with passengers travelling from there required to undergo a virus test 72 hours before leaving their last port of call.
Under Australia’s previous travel restrictions, which came into effect last March, Australians had to apply for an exemption to leave the country. The man who travelled to India was granted an exemption for his trip.
On Sunday, India recorded 352,991 cases – the worst single-day increase in any country since the pandemic began – as mass cremation sites were established in response to a mounting death toll.
Western Australia premier Mark McGowan said today that he has “enormous sympathy for India”, but that the situation is presenting challenges to his state and others, and the tests done in India for returning Aussies either “aren’t accurate or aren’t believable”.
“It’s obviously a diabolical situation that is going on in India at the moment, but it does put extreme pressure on our systems here in Western Australia and indeed in other states,” McGowan said.
“I’m advised that other states are going through exactly the same experience.”
McGowan said he expects the number of infections in returned travellers in his state to “grow significantly” in the coming days, after confirming 78 of the 79 passengers on a flight to Perth from Kuala Lumpur on Saturday had been in India recently.
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