First flight lands in Australia as India travel ban ends

Darwin, Australia | Sat, May 15, 2021

A plane carrying more than 70 Australians escaping a virus outbreak in India landed in the country’s north on Saturday, the first since a contentious ban on arrivals was lifted. After 48 passengers tested positive for Covid-19 and others were considered similar contacts, the plane landed in Darwin on Saturday morning with vulnerable passengers from New Delhi.

However, 72 of the plane’s scheduled passengers were denied boarding. According to a Northern Territory Health spokeswoman, the plane was cleared to accommodate only over half of the passengers who had been booked.

Those who test positive for the virus or are considered close contacts are required to stay in India until a negative test is returned. For at least a fortnight, the newcomers will be quarantined at Howard Springs, an Outback quarantine facility.

The government threatened to jail anyone who violated the travel ban, which expired at midnight on Friday, including Australian residents, earlier this month.

Approximately 9,000 Australians are thought to be in India, where hundreds of thousands of new coronavirus cases are found every day and the death toll is rising. Australians have been prohibited from traveling abroad since March 2020, and international visitors must obtain an individual exemption to enter the country.

While there is no widespread population transmission of Covid-19 in Australia, several outbreaks have occurred in hotel quarantine facilities, resulting in city lockdowns.

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