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Australia suspends flights from India till May 15 as COVID-19 outbreak explodes

New Delhi: Amid the COVID-19 outbreak in India, the Australian government has decided to suspend incoming flights from India until the middle of May.

Though an official confirmation is yet to be made in this regard, leading Australian newspapers and journalists reported that Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that flights will be suspended immediately until at least May 15 to prevent COVID-19 transmission crossing borders.

Melinda Farrell, a presenter/journalist/commentator, said in a tweet, “Scott Morrison says the Australian govt is suspending passenger flights from India to Aus. Suspension is initially until May 15. Indirect flights – via Doha, for example – are also suspended.

Repatriation flights for Australians still in India are being organised, said reports. Chris O’Keefe, a political reporter, also tweeted, “Prime Minister confirms passenger flights between India and Australia will be suspended until May 15.”

He added that “ventilators, masks, gowns, goggles, gloves and face masks, as well as oxygen tanks will be sent to India as part of an initial aid package.”

According to Reuters, Queensland state has urged the federal government to halt all flights from India due to the high risk of potential COVID-19 outbreaks from highly contagious virus variants in Australia`s hotel quarantine system.

“I sent a letter to the Prime Minister at the end of last week asking for the suspension of flights coming in from India … and I know that the federal government is considering it today,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told the Australian Broadcasting Corp on Tuesday.

Australia`s national security committee will meet later on Tuesday to consider halting flights from India and will also unveil measures including sending medical supplies to help India, Australian media reported.

Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan said he has “enormous sympathy for India at the moment” but urged the federal government to suspend flights from the country after the state reported four new cases, all returned travellers from India in quarantine.”

“India, there needs to be a suspension … there is huge pressure now on all our quarantine facilities as a result of people coming from India,” McGowan told reporters in Perth.

Last week, Australia announced it would cut the number of its citizens able to return from India and other red-zone countries to contain the risk of more virulent strains of COVID-19 spreading.

India has ordered its armed forces to help tackle the COVID-19 crisis, as nations including Britain, Germany and the United States pledged urgent medical aid to try to contain an emergency overwhelming the country`s hospitals.

India is second only to the United States for total COVID-19 infections at 17.3 million. It may be noted that several nations, including the UK, Canada, UAE, Saudi Arabia and New Zealand, have temporarily suspended travel from India in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases.