The government’s controversial India travel ban will be lifted on May 15 but anyone infected with the virus will be kicked off repatriation flights.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed on Friday the biosecurity order had ‘done it’s job’ and would not extend beyond the May 15 review date.
One repatriation flight per week will be organised by the government to help 1,000 Australians return home by June.
The Federal Government will use the Howard Springs quarantine facility (pictured) in the NT to exclusively house Australian travelers fleeing Covid-ravaged India from May 15
Scott Morrison (pictured left) announced Australian repatriation flights from India will begin on May 15 as 9,000 Australians are stranded in India after travel ban
Trapped Australians can also sort out their own flights once the ban is lifted, previously facing fines and jail time if they tried.
Mr Morrison confirmed a meeting of cabinet’s national security committee on Thursday agreed not to extend the travel ban.
‘That biosecurity order is working exactly as it was intended to, and that will remain in place with no change until May 15,’ he said.
‘The national security committee of cabinet has confirmed it will have done its job by then, and as a result we see no need to extend it beyond that date.’
Mr Morrison said it was unclear how many of the stranded 9,000 citizens contracted the virus in India, but they would be refused entry on the repatriation flights.
A worker helps cremate the bodies of Covid-19 victims on the banks of the Ganges river as India continues to battle the world’s largest Covid outbreak
Travellers will need to return a negative Covid test if they want to board the reparation flights from India (pictured: Workers attempt to extend crematorium as number of people who died from Covid increases)
‘We have rapid antigen testing in place to give ourselves a greater sense of surety that if we are bringing people back to Australia we are minimising the risk of Covid cases of being brought into the country,’ he said.
The new measures will require passengers to return both a negative Covid-19 PCR test and a negative Rapid Antigen test before boarding.
Returning Australians will be taken to the Howard Springs facility near Darwin to undergo mandatory quarantine – with up to 200 passengers on the first flight.
The number of Covid-19 positive cases in the Howard Springs has fallen to 21with positive cases associated with previous flights from India on track to reach zero by May 14.
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.
Scott Morrison has pledged to lift the capacity of Howard Springs (pictured) from 850 to 2000 beds this month
One flight per week that will transport Australians from India back home to later isolate at the Howard Springs Facility (pictured)
The number of Covid-19 positive cases in the Howard Springs Facility (pictured) has fallen to 21 with cases from previous flights from India on track to reach zero by May 14
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,’ he 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.
The future of direct flights out of India to Sydney is also being worked through with the NSW government.
In April the government banned Australians from returning as India continues to battle the world’s worst Covid-19 outbreak.
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
The controversial decision threatened a five year jail sentence or $66,000 fines for anyone who breached orders.
Australians trapped overseas may wait many months, with some states reluctant to boost their intake.
Western Australia announced on Thursday the cap on returned travellers would be limited to 530, having been 1,025 before the latest lockdown.
‘That’s a significant reduction but we’re going to be very precautionary with our hotels,’ Premier Mark McGowan said.
India recorded 412,262 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday – the world’s biggest single-day increase since the pandemic began.
The numbers come after Australia’s announced it’s initial support package to India which included including 500 ventilators, a million surgical masks, 500,000 P2 and N95 masks, 100,000 goggles, 100,000 pairs of gloves, and 20,000 face shields.
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 dies
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