Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday announced the travel ban would end on its planned expiry date, following a fierce backlash against the harsh measures.
“The pause that we put in place for travellers coming back from India is working,” he told reporters in Newcastle.
There will be three flights this month to bring back the most urgent cases with 900 vulnerable citizens and permanent residents stranded in India.
All arrivals will be quarantined at the Northern Territory’s Howard Springs mining camp where capacity is set to increase to 2000 beds.
People found to have coronavirus in a pre-flight test will be denied the right to board planes.
“Rapid antigen testing is a requirement and a negative test to get on a flight to Australia. I’m sure that’s what all Australians would expect,” Morrison said.
Up to 200 passengers could be on the first flight, which will likely depart almost immediately after the temporary travel ban is lifted.
But the 9000 Australians still stuck in India could face months of waiting to return home with the Asian nation in the grips of a coronavirus catastrophe.
India recorded another grim global world record on Thursday with more than 412,000 new coronavirus cases and almost 4000 deaths.
Morrison said the government did not know how many of the stranded Australians have contracted the disease.
“We don’t have that information. That is why they are tested before they get on the flight,” he said.
Cabinet’s national security committee signed off on the decision on Thursday following advice from Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly.
The controversial ban came under heavy fire from within conservative ranks, the Indian-Australian community and human rights groups after the government threatened jail and fines for people who tried to circumvent it.
The government argued it was necessary to ease pressure on quarantine and prevent a third wave breaking out in Australia.
The Federal Court is due to hear Gary Newman’s legal challenge to the ban on Monday, with the Australian man having been stuck in India for more than a year.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said some of those stranded were in great danger and would be prioritised when flights were approved.Jump to next article