PM bans flights from India and announces medical aid

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Australia has joined Canada, UK, France, and other EU countries in restricting arrivals from India. After the National Cabinet meeting today, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that all flights from India will be halted temporarily.

“We extend our deepest sympathies, condolences and support to the nation of India and the people of India… we stand with them in this terrible crisis,” Mr Morrison said.

Considering India had over 325,000 new COVID cases reported on Anzac Day with over 2,800 deaths, the Prime Minister revealed new restrictions in response to the escalating situation.

UPDATED restrictions are as follows:

  • Direct passenger flights from India will be paused until May 15 (two into Sydney, and two into Darwin)
  • Passengers on future flights are required to have a negative rapid antigen test and a negative PCR test before boarding
  • Vulnerable Australians in India will be taken into consideration again after May 15
  • Regarding indirect flights through Doha, Dubai, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur have already been paused by their respective governments, which the PM hopes will have a positive impact on Perth, South Australia, and other ports without direct entry
  • Restrictions on outbound travel  to India are already in place

Moreover, Scott Morrison also announced an initial support package to aid India during this “humanitarian crisis”, and said that “more will follow”.

In the support package to India, Australia has pledged 500 non-invasive ventilators, 1 million surgical masks, 500,000 P2 and N92 masks, 100,000 PPE (surgical gowns, goggles, pairs of gloves), along with 20,000 face shields.

The Australian government has also agreed to commence the procurement of 100 oxygen concentrators along with tanks and consumables.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) will manage the movement of these supplies and equipment over the course of the next week.

Australian cricketer Pat Cummins yesterday tweeted about his $50,000 donation to the Indian government’s PM Cares fund “specifically to purchase oxygen supplies for India’s hospitals”. Cummins urged his fellow IPL players to do the same.

Top Australian cricketers, including David Warner and Steve Smith, could soon be flying back to Australia from India as all eyes were set on Australia’s National Security Committee of Cabinet meeting today which discussed restrictions on flights from India.

There were 17 Australian players participating in the Indian Premier League out of which three – Adam Zampa, Kane Richardson and Andrew Tye have already returned home. Tye had previously said that he didn’t want to get locked out of the country.

kane richardson ipl players, cvid india kane richardson
Cricket Australia disclosed that there are no plans of having a chartered plane for the IPL players at this point. Source: Twitter

Britain said earlier that India would be added to its “red-list” of locations from which most travel is banned due to a high number of Covid-19 cases. In addition, France imposed a 10-day quarantine for travellers from India, while the UAE and Italy have suspended all flights from India.

Last week, Canada’s government said that it would also temporarily bar passenger flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days starting on Thursday as part of stricter measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Canadian Health Minister Patty Hajdu said that while Indian citizens accounted for 20 per cent of all international arrivals, they represented over 50 per cent of the positive tests conducted by Canadian airport officials.

“By eliminating direct travel from these countries, public health experts will have the time to evaluate the ongoing epidemiology of that region and to reassess the situation,” she told a news conference.

US reroutes oxygen shipments to India

The US Defence Department is working on providing the direly-needed oxygen to India in the grip of a Covid-19 surge and Washington may be able to reroute shipments to India, according to Joe Biden’s Spokesperson Jen Psaki.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds a press briefing. US covid india
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds a press briefing. Source: @TheHill/Twitter

The US has also identified commercial suppliers of Remdesivir who can immediately provide the Covid-19 medicine to India, she said on Monday at her briefing.

“Department of Defense and USAID are pursuing options to provide oxygen generation systems (and) we may be in a position to reroute shipments meant for other countries with lower immediate needs, given the urgency of the conditions in India,” she said.

The Defence Department is also looking at sending field oxygen generation systems, which have been used in US field medical hospitals and can support 50 to 100 beds, and oxygen concentrators used to produce medical quality gas, Psaki revealed.

The announcement came after a conversation between Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at which, according to the White House, “the two leaders resolved that the United States and India will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the effort to protect our citizens and the health of our communities.”

biden US vaccine India Astra Zeneca Raw materials
Biden “pledged America’s steadfast support for the people of India who have been impacted by the recent surge in COVID-19 cases,” the White House said in a readout of their conversation. Source: Twitter

Psaki said the US was “in close touch with Indian officials at all levels” and “as requested by India we will provide raw materials for the production of AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine at Serum Institute of India.”

“The US has also identified the rapid diagnostic testing supplies, personal protective equipment and ventilators available to be sent to India,” she said.

Psaki added that while the US wanted to protect its people, at the moment there were no plans to restrict travel from India.

About reports that the Indian government was asking the social media providers like Facebook and Twitter to ban posts critical of the government, Psaki said, “That certainly wouldn’t be aligned with our view of freedom of speech around the world.”

Export of vaccine raw materials and some anti-COVID products were banned by former President Donald Trump under Defence Production Act.

After public pressure and worldwide criticism with many calling it “crime against humanity”, the Joe Biden administration on late Sunday decided to lift its ban on the raw material for vaccine production.

EU’s COVID-aid to India

In a panic, Indian embassies reached out to their host nations in Europe for help as the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic triggered a massive crisis across India.

Official sources said that embassies are seeking empty, refillable Oxygen cylinders with 10 litres and 45 litres Liquid Medical Oxygen capacity; Oxygen concentrators; in situ Oxygen manufacturing plants for hospitals; and Remdesivir from the European Union member states.

The embassies, sources said, have asked India’s allies in Europe to gift all the medical aid to the Indian Red Cross, which will further ship it to India.

On Sunday, President of the European Union Commission Ursula von der Leyen along with European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic tweeted that help is on the way and that India has the EU’s support.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany also expressed her solidarity and support to the people of India via comments posted by her spokesperson on Twitter.

Germany's angel;a Merkel in solidarity with india during COVID

Over the weekend, Health Minister Jens Spahn announced that only German citizens would be able to travel from India into Germany.

With IANS reports

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Bageshri Savyasachi
Bageshri Savyasachi
Truth-telling, tree-hugging journalist.

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