Australia is cutting off all direct and indirect passenger flights from India as CCP virus cases surge in the country, with locals performing mass open-air cremations to keep up with the number of deaths.
In a single day, on April 25, India reported more than 2,800 deaths and 325,000 new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
This has followed a tragic five-day trend where the total infected cases have also surpassed 17 million, and at present, 195,123 people have lost their lives in India.
As India grapples with the emergency, the Australian government has announced that direct passenger flights from India that fly into Sydney have been stopped for the next 18 days, until May 15.
Likewise, repatriation flights that fly into Darwin have also been paused. Morrison said the move is expected to impact around 500 arrivals.
Further, indirect flights from India via Doha, Dubai, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur have been paused by the authorities in those jurisdictions.
The restrictions will be reviewed before May 15 to determine whether an extension is needed.
The move comes as India ordered its armed forces to help with the overwhelming outbreak, and after Australia pledged to send aid, including oxygen and PPE.
Dr. Shaarang Sachdev from the Aakash Healthcare Super Speciality Hospital told Sky News UK that doctors on the ground expect the next two weeks to be “hell.”
Doctors and nurses are working back to back shifts while some of their own family are in hospital as patients but they can’t see them.
“We don’t even have time to go and visit them,” Sachdev said. “They’re exhausted, physically and emotionally—and many are angry.”
Sachdev was speaking from his emergency room, which had more patients than beds. A young woman on a ventilator had been there for two days instead of the ICU where there are no beds.
The hospital has set up a tent city on the grounds to treat patients. All of them need oxygen, which is in very short supply, with the country’s military being mobilised to bring in oxygen tanks from neighbouring countries and allies.
“The scenes that we’re seeing in India are truly heartbreaking,” Morrison told reporters on Tuesday. “India is a great friend of Australia, a comprehensive strategic partner. We share so much in common as peoples, as democratic nations.”
“We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences and support to the nation of India and the people of India,” he said.
Morrison has pledged to immediately send an initial package of support which will include 500 non-invasive ventilators, 1 million surgical masks, 500,000 P2 and N95 masks, 100,000 surgical gowns, 100,000 goggles, 100,000 pairs of gloves, and 20,000 face shields.
The prime minister said Australia has also agreed to commence procurement of 100 oxygen concentrators along with tanks and consumables.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) will handle the shipment of these urgent supplies over the next week.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said there were over 9,000 Australians in India, with 650 of those registered as vulnerable.
“This number will certainly increase in the coming days and weeks as people’s circumstances change,” she said.
Her department, DFAT, had eight flights scheduled for May, which have now been cancelled. Since March 2020, DFAT facilitated 38 flights out of India, helping around 5,000 Australians come home.
Those repatriation flights will resume after May 15, if circumstances allow.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who has been calling for regional containment hubs, has said that pausing the flights is the right decision in the current circumstances.
“I welcome the Federal Government’s decision to increase aid to India. We stand united to help,” she wrote on Twitter.
“I know the decision to suspend flights will be difficult for families, but it is the right decision at this time.”
Palaszczuk had early on Tuesday called for all inbound flights from India to be suspended to protect Australia from the strain of the virus ravaging the country.
The United Kingdom and the European Union (EU) are also sending ventilators, other medical equipment, and medicines.
The UK’s and EU’s announcements came after the Indian government requested aid to help it fight a massive surge in COVID-19 cases as hospitals across the country turn away patients after running out of medical oxygen and beds.
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock called the scenes in India “heartbreaking” and said that the UK is “determined to support the people of India through this very difficult time.”
Australians can call consular posts for information on 1300 555 135 (within Australia), and +61 62 613 205 (outside Australia.)