Sydney: Australia declared a temporary ban on direct passenger flights from India on Tuesday as the South Asian nation grapples with a major increase in coronavirus infections.
Due to “clearly present” risks of travel from India, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the ban would be in effect until at least May 15, stranding thousands of Australians, including high-profile cricketers.
In response to the spiralling COVID crisis, countries such as Canada, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom have taken similar steps to suspend or limit flights.
Morrison also announced that Australia will send medical assistance to India, including oxygen tanks, ventilators, and personal protective equipment, as the country’s health system struggles to cope with the rising caseload.
On Monday, the 1.3 billion-strong country saw 3,52,991 new infections and 2,812 deaths, the highest numbers since the pandemic started.
India is experiencing a “terrible humanitarian crisis,” according to Morrison, which is affecting Australian families with links to the country.
The scenes from India that we’re seeing are absolutely heartbreaking, said Morrison.
The flight ban comes a day after authorities in Perth, Australia’s west, lifted stay-at-home orders for two million residents after a man who returned from his wedding in India infected others in quarantine.
“We don’t believe the solution is to abandon those Australians in India and simply turn them off, as some seem to suggest,” he said, adding that cricketers currently competing in the Indian Premier League will receive no special treatment (IPL).
Since the pandemic started, the nation of 25 million people has seen less than 30,000 cases and 910 deaths, with no significant outbreaks since last year and little restrictions in other parts of the country.
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