Australia on Tuesday suspended direct flights from India to prevent more virulent coronavirus variants entering the country following a surge in positive COVID-19 cases in the world’s second-most populous nation.
India’s coronavirus death toll neared the bleak milestone of 200,000 with another 2,771 fatalities reported on Tuesday, while its armed forces pledged urgent medical aid to help battle the staggering spike in infections.
The suspension of direct passenger flights between the two countries will remain until May 15, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a televised news conference.
“It is a humanitarian crisis and one gripping the world,” Morrison said.
“We don’t think the answer is to forsake those Australians in India and just shut them off,” he added, reiterating the suspension was temporary to ensure Australia could manage arrivals from virus hotspots.
Australia’s move impacts two passenger services from India into Sydney and two repatriating flights from India to Darwin, totalling around 500 arrivals.
Morrison said the suspension would provide a “breather” to quarantine facilities in New South Wales state and the Northern Territory, given the majority of positive cases there came from India.