CANBERRA, Australia — Flights from India to Australia have been paused until May 15, as the coronavirus pandemic rages out of control in India. The pause makes use of biosecurity emergency powers currently in place in Australia.
India has been reporting more than 300,000 new cases of Covid-19 every day for the past week. The total number of cases in India is now close to 19 million, and more than 200,000 people have died.
“Our hearts go out to the people of India — and our Indian-Australian community. The friends and family of those in Australia are at extreme risk. Tragically, many are contracting Covid-19, and many, sadly, are dying every day,” said the health officials in a statement.
The continuing rapid increase and likely under-reporting of the numbers of Covid-19 cases in India through community transmission.
Lack of verification mechanisms for negative Covid-19 test results obtained internationally and high rates of Covid-19 detected from arrivals from India, with a high proportion of cases detected in Australia having acquired their infection in India.
A high proportion of variants of concern and variants of interest amongst those cases have been recorded along with community transmission within hotel quarantine, as seen recently in New South Wales and Western Australia.
Following the introduction of pre-departure testing and changes to international arrival caps in late January, overseas acquired cases among air arrivals fell from 1 percent to 0.5 percent in February.
The proportion since then has increased to 1.8 percent of recent air arrivals being identified as cases.
In late March, there has been a sharp increase in the number and proportion of overseas acquired cases that were reported as acquiring their infection in India (over half of the overseas acquired cases since mid-April were acquired in India).
Health Minister Greg Hunt may determine requirements necessary to prevent or control the entry into or the emergence, establishment, or spread of Covid-19 in Australian territory or part of Australian territory.
The penalty for breaching such a determination is five years’ jail, or AUD 66,600 ($55,400), or both.
The temporary India pause is in place until May 15, but the biosecurity emergency period is currently in place until June 17.
The possible consequences under the pause could be serious illness without access to health care.
There is a potential for Australians to be stranded in a transit country and, in the worst-case scenario, may even lead to deaths.
Consequences can be mitigated through a temporary pause and exemptions for some travelers.
(Edited by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Pallavi Mehra. Map by Urvashi Makwana)
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