quarantine australians india flights government home relatives
Diversity in the tech industryThe GuardianCoalition urged to set up additional quarantine facilities as relatives tellof despair at worsening crisis With a stronger quarantine system, Australiacould offer more help to those trapped in India | Hassan Vally Relativeswearing protective gear perform final rites for a Covid victim at an opencrematorium in Bangalore, southern India. The Australian government is beingurged to do more to repatriate its citizens. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images Thefamilies of Australians stranded in the subcontinent are urging the Morrisongovernment to establish a quarantine solution that would allow their lovedones to return home en masse when flights from India eventually resume. Theprime minister, Scott Morrison, on Tuesday announced a pause on direct flightsfrom India to Australia until at least 15 May – including governmentrepatriation flights due to land at the Howard Springs quarantine facilityoutside of Darwin. Some 9,000 Australians in India are bracing for adeterioration of the Covid outbreak that saw 350,000 new infections on Monday.Moves by countries including Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Malaysiato bar non-citizens from transiting through their airports have essentiallyclosed off any option to leave India. Morrison, asked about the possibilitythat vulnerable Australians in India could die during the health crisis, said:“That is the nature of a global pandemic – that is why we have beenrepatriating citizens.” “I don’t see those Australians of Indian heritage as aproblem we have to solve, not at all, and I am concerned that’s how some mayhave been seeing this,” he said. “These are Australians and Australianresidents who need our help and we intend to ensure that we are able torestore, particularly the repatriation flights, and that those repatriationflights focus on the most vulnerable.” Morrison did not directly answerwhether he was considering setting up additional federal quarantinefacilities, but he flagged that Australian cricketers currently in India wouldnot be prioritised to return once flights resumed. Deepa, who lives onSydney’s north shore, is one of countless Indian Australians overwhelmed bythe news coming out of her home country. “Each day I read the news and I don’tstop crying,” Deepa, who did not want her surname published, told GuardianAustralia. “It’s so heartbreaking the way they have treated Australians, whowent there with the government’s permission, who have been trying to get homesince before this current wave. What sort of values system does our governmenthave?” In late February, after her husband Ashish’s father died, he flew toChandigarh to be with his mother. Ashish planned to help her get his father’saffairs in order and adjust to life without him. Last week, Ashish’s flighthome via Singapore was cancelled when that country banned flights for non-citizens arriving from India. And as the $6,000 he spent on that flight tickethad not yet been refunded, his family was struggling to pay for any of theremaining routes home that had not yet been closed off. “We don’t have themoney to book another flight and risk a border change forcing it to becancelled,” Deepa said. Ashish is now buying supplies for his mother so shedoesn’t have to go out and risk infection. Deepa believes that, given the rateof infection, it is inevitable he will contract Covid-19 at some point. “Ihope and pray that if he does get it his symptoms are mild and he recovers,”she said. Deepa has several younger relatives in Bangalore who have contractedCovid in the current wave and are now being treated for pneumonia. She isdesperate for the government to set up a safe quarantine facility to allow forthe repatriation of Australians on a mass scale. While her husband has been inIndia, their landlord has given them an eviction notice for 10 May, and Deepaand her seven-year-old daughter, Aditi, have had to pack up their home withoutAshish. “They’ve stopped seeing us as citizens – there are so few options forAustralians to return when the flights do resume. But if you’re a cricketerand can afford to charter a flight, do you deserve to be safe more thanothers? It’s nonsense,” Deepa said. “They’re the government, they havequarantine facilities, they have responsibility to look at rural areas for newsolutions. They have to make the system work. “If they want to make sureeveryone who comes into quarantine in Australia presents no Covid risk, thenwhy do they even have a quarantine system?” Also in Sydney, Anisa Patel iswatching on in despair as the situation in India worsens. She moved toAustralia with her husband from Mumbai seven years ago and they run apackaged-meal business. All of their parents and extended family remain inIndia. “We’re extremely worried for our parents,” she said. “It’s constantlyat the back of my mind.” Anisa believes that once the government allowsflights to resume, it should expand the quarantine capacity and offer it toall Australians stuck in India. She also thinks there should be quarantinecapacity reserved so if Australians need to return to India to visit sickrelatives in emergency situations they are able to. “As the situation getsworse, many relatives of Indian Australians will get sick. Many will need togo back, it’s an important part of their life. They should be able to go andhave a way to return that doesn’t pose a risk to the community,” she said,suggesting a regional quarantine option.