World Australia Aiming to Begin India Repatriation Flights Next Week After Backlash to Travel Ban
SOS messages, panic as virus breaks India's health system
NEW DELHI (AP) — Dr. Gautam Singh dreads the daily advent of the ventilator beeps, signaling that oxygen levels are critically low, and hearing his critically ill patients start gasping for air in the New Delhi emergency ward where he works. Like other doctors across the country, which on Monday set another record for new coronavirus infections for a fifth day in a row at more than 350,000, the cardiologist has taken to begging and borrowing cylinders of oxygen just to keep his most critical patients alive for one more day.
Facing pressure to overturn a harsh travel restriction barring Australians in India from returning home amid a record-breaking COVID outbreak, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Tuesday the government may restart flights by May 15.
Morrison's comments come after he imposed a strict lockdown on flights from India last week, stranding some 8,000 citizens overseas as India faces soaring coronavirus cases and deaths. The harsh order said that any citizen in India would be banned entering Australia until at least May 15, and those who break the rule could be prosecuted with lengthy prison sentences or costly fines.
India's COVID-19 Crisis Is Spiraling Out of Control. It Didn't Have to Be This Way
The country is now facing the world’s worst COVID-19 outbreak, and a devastating humanitarian crisisScenes of mass death are now unavoidable in what’s often called the world’s largest democracy. Social media is filled with images of body bags and urgent requests for medical aid. Indians gasping for breath are being turned away from overwhelmed hospitals, sometimes simply because they don’t have lab reports confirming COVID-19 infection. Health workers plead for basic supplies. “We feel so angry,” says Kanchan Pandey, a community health worker in Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh. “At least give us some masks and gloves.
The unprecedented restriction is believed to be the first time that Australia has made it a criminal offense for its citizens or permanent residents to re-enter the country.
Morrison immediately faced widespread backlash over the new rule and was accused by some of imposing "racist" restrictions and having blood on his hands, AFP reported. On Tuesday, the prime minister attempted to play down the restrictions, stating it would be "highly unlikely" for citizens to face such harsh penalties.
"I don't think it would be fair to suggest these penalties in their most extreme forms are likely to be placed anywhere, but this is a way to ensure we can prevent the virus coming back," Morrison told local broadcaster Channel Nine.
Opinion: India's Covid crisis has revealed the real Narendra Modi
Meenakshi Narula Ahamed writes that India's prime minister Narendra Modi's handling of the pandemic is endangering the country's public health but also its public institutions and democracy.By 2014, when Narendra Modi became prime minister of the world's largest democracy, India had long shed her image being one of the poorest nations teeming with starving and sick people in constant need of foreign aid. Under a team of pro-western reformers, India underwent an economic transformation in the 90's and by the early 2000's was being hailed as an economic powerhouse and an attractive partner for the western alliance.
He added that repatriation flights from India may resume by May 15, as the government looks to significantly increase the capacity at a quarantine facility in the country's Northern Territory.
Among those trapped in India are high-profile sport stars, such as cricket players participating in the Indian Premier League. Michael Slater, an Australian sports commentator and former cricket star was among those who criticized Morrison's decision, calling it a "disgrace."
"If our Government cared for the safety of Aussies they would allow us to get home. It's a disgrace!! Blood on your hands PM. How dare you treat us like this. How about you sort out quarantine system. I had government permission to work on the IPL but I now have government neglect," Slater tweeted Monday.
If our Government cared for the safety of Aussies they would allow us to get home. It's a disgrace!! Blood on your hands PM. How dare you treat us like this. How about you sort out quarantine system. I had government permission to work on the IPL but I now have government neglect
On the ground and afar, diaspora boosts India's virus fight
India's large diaspora — long a boon to India's economy — is tapping its wealth, political clout and expertise to help its home country combat the catastrophic coronavirus surge that has left people to die outside overwhelmed hospitals. Around the world, people of Indian descent are donating money, personally delivering desperately needed oxygen equipment and setting up telehealth consultations and information sessions in hopes of beating back the outbreak.Two humanitarian groups in the U.S. led by people of Indian background raised more than $25 million in recent days to help the teetering health care system.— Michael Slater (@mj_slats) May 3, 2021
In response, Morrison called Slater's statement "absurd" on Tuesday, and said the government was working to bring citizens home safely.
"The buck stops here when it comes to these decisions, and I'm going to take decisions that I believe are going to protect Australia from a third wave," Morrison said Tuesday, according to AFP. "I'm working to bring them home safely.
The controversial travel order comes as India continues to grapple with one of the world's worst COVID-19 outbreaks. The country on Tuesday surpassed 20 million cases —nearly doubling in just the past three months—while deaths reached more than 220,000, according to the Associated Press.
The situation has gotten so bad that hospitals are r, while some crematoriums are overflowing with so many bodies they've been
On Tuesday, Australia's main medical association urged the government to immediately lift the "mean-spirited" travel ban and implement a more serious plan to ensure the safe and quick return of Australian citizens from India, Reuters reported.
India in COVID crisis: We need to send more help — but ban travel, too
It is prudent for the U.S. to institute a temporary full travel ban to all travelers coming here from India. At the same time, travel to India should be stopped to all but the most essential (and vaccinated) personnel. All routine flights to and from the U.S. should be immediately cancelled. © Getty Images India in COVID crisis: We need to send more help — but ban travel, too On Friday, President Biden signed a travel restriction, limiting travel to permanent legal residents, spouses and close family members of U.S.
Newsweek contacted Morrison's office for additional comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.
Your top questions about India's Covid crisis answered .
We put your questions about the severity and handling of the coronavirus crisis in India to experts.Many of you have been sending us questions regarding the current situation and we asked experts inside and outside the BBC to answer them.