/Repatriation flight seats left empty after Australians test postive for COVID-19 in India – ABC News

Repatriation flight seats left empty after Australians test postive for COVID-19 in India – ABC News

About half of the seats on a repatriation flight set to leave India will be left empty after Australians who were supposed to be coming home tested positive for COVID-19.

Key points:

The flight had a capacity of just 150 passengers, due to social distancing restrictions, but more than 70 will be unable to fly.

That includes more than 40 people who tested positive for COVID-19. Close contacts of people who tested positive will also be unable to fly. 

The flight is due to leave New Delhi on Friday night local time, and arrive in Darwin on Saturday morning after 9:00am.

It will be the first to leave India bound for Australia since the federal government imposed a ban last month.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed, as are those Australians who will not be on today’s flight,” Australia’s High Commissioner to India Barry O’Farrell told the ABC.

“My team has worked hard across India to get them bookings on this flight because they are vulnerable.”

But he said all passengers were made aware of the increased testing rules required to fly back to Australia.

“Regrettably those people will have to return home and deal with the COVID that they have, or continue to isolate to prove that they don’t have COVID,” Mr O’Farrell said.

“Until such time that they test negative they won’t be able to fly on one of these facilitated flights.”

Mr O’Farrell did say that COVID-positive potential passengers and family members would still be considered vulnerable and be given priority on future flights.

He said people who had been signed on to the flight had all been put up in hotels, paid for by Qantas, so that they could do the first round of pre-flight testing, and that the results of the second round had not come back yet.

It may mean there are more people who are not allowed to fly.

There are about 10,000 Australians, permanent residents and their immediate family members seeking to return home from India.

Almost 1,000 of those are considered vulnerable. 

The passengers will fly back on a Qantas plane the federal government used to fly more than 1,000 ventilators and other essential medical supplies. 

That plane left Australia overnight.

It was the second planeload of equipment the federal government had sent to India to help some of the millions of people who have contracted COVID-19 there.

More to come.