Australia slashes flights from India after single-day caseload high of more than 310,000 ... remember when Trump blocking flights was "racist?"
Australia has agreed to reduce the number of flights coming from India
after the south Asian country recorded a single-day peak in COVID-19 cases. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, alongside state and territory executives, agreed on more stringent restrictions. The Australian leaders seconded a number of measures aimed at Indian travelers – including a 30 percent reduction of flights bound for the Land Down Under.
Morrison spoke to reporters in Canberra after an April 22 national cabinet meeting. The prime minister said: "As time goes on, and the pandemic continues to rage, there are countries that are frankly of greater risk than others. [We've] seen in particular, most recently, an increase in the rate of cases in our quarantine system at a state and territory level for arrivals from India."
Under the new measures agreed upon by Morrison and other Australian heads of state, all chartered flights from India would be reduced by 30 percent in the next 24 hours. Flights to Sydney – the only city receiving direct flights from India – would also be reduced by one-third.
Travelers also ought to be prepared, as those flying to and from India will face tougher restrictions. Those wishing to travel to either India or Australia ought to anticipate increased difficulty when obtaining exemptions. Furthermore, COVID-19 tests will also be required from those coming from high-risk countries such as India 72 hours before they board.
Morrison remarked that there would still be chances for Australians to fly back home from high-risk countries, "but in controlled circumstances." Only Australian citizens, residents and their families are currently allowed to fly home. Those falling outside those categories can only step foot on Australian soil with a travel exemption. More than 34,000 Aussies in different countries – including India, where many are dual citizens – want to return home.
Things aren't going well for India's battle with the Wuhan coronavirus
Australia's ban on flights coming from India followed a wave of Wuhan coronavirus infections in the south Asian country. People returning from India comprise 40 percent of cases in hospital quarantine in some states and territories. The prime minister remarked that the figures were "not something we could ignore."
The Land Down Under is currently working on a list of high-risk nations, similar to the one the U.K. uses. Aside from India, other countries could also be included in the restrictions once the list is finished.
India recorded on April 22 an all-time high in its daily COVID-19 caseload – with 314,835 new cases. It surpassed the previous record of 297,430 held by the U.S. Based on figures from Johns Hopkins University
, India currently has 16.6 million cumulative COVID-19 cases with 13.9 million recoveries and 189,544 fatalities.
Meanwhile, India is also dealing with a new "triple mutant" strain
. This new variant dubbed as B1618 or the Bengali strain appears to be responsible for the current spike in infections. Indian scientists have surmised that the triple mutant strain evolved from an earlier "double mutant" variant, first discovered in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. (Related: Post-vaccine variants: India discovers new "double mutant" Wuhan coronavirus strain
Experts remarked that "there is no conclusive evidence" on the B1618 strain's overall impact on current efforts to fight COVID-19 as of writing. However, the fact that the Bengali strain possesses the E484K mutation is enough to raise alarm bells. This mutation, also found in the Brazilian P3 and South African B1351 variants, allows the Wuhan coronavirus to bypass vaccine-induced immunity.
Variants such as the B1618, B1351 and P3 strains can evade the neutralizing antibodies in the immune systems of people who already received COVID-19 vaccines – potentially undermining the effectivity of the shots. Moreover, an expert has warned that the Bengali strain appears to be far more infectious than its predecessors. McGill University
epidemiology professor Dr. Madhukar Pai told NDTV
: "This is a more transmissible variant. It is making lots of people sick very quickly."
The Bengali B1618 strain can indeed cause a lot of trouble for Australia – if in case it manages to enter the country. According to Morrison, around 1.8 million Australians have now been immunized against COVID-19 in the entire country. The Land Down Under's sluggish vaccination effort is now being aided by general practitioners who are now administering COVID-19 vaccines. (Related: Australian doctor "shocked" by adverse effects of Pfizer coronavirus vaccine's second jab
to find out more about flight reductions and other steps nations are taking to fight the Wuhan coronavirus.