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International flights bound for Adelaide as COVID case pause ends

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Three international flights are set to arrive in Adelaide over the next two days, after a brief “reprieve” on direct repatriation flights to ease pressure on the city’s medi-hotels expired today.

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Premier Steven Marshall revealed yesterday afternoon that he had asked Prime Minister Scott Morrison  last Friday for a “three-day pause” on international travel into SA, following concerns about rising COVID cases from international arrivals in Adelaide medi-hotels.

The pause – in place for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday – saw three inbound international flights, two from Singapore and one from Doha, redirected from Adelaide to other destinations.

The flight reprieve expired today, with a Singapore Airlines flight from Changi due to land at Adelaide Airport between 2:30 and 3:00pm this afternoon.

Another flight from Singapore is scheduled to arrive in Adelaide at 8:00am on Thursday, followed by a Qatar Airways flight from Doha on Thursday night.

SA Health confirmed to InDaily it is anticipating around 76 people to arrive on each of the three flights.

It comes after a Malaysia Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur, carrying passengers travelling from Chennai, arrived in Adelaide Saturday evening, with SA Health reporting 14 new COVID-19 cases in hotel quarantine the following Monday.

The federal government announced on Tuesday that all flights into Australia from India would be suspended until May 15, with the ban including transiting passengers.

Scott Morrison said he had been advised that flights from India into the transit hubs of Doha, Dubai, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur have been “paused” by the respective governments of each country.

“So that third country entry point into Australia has already been closed by those key embarkation points to Australia,” Morrison told reporters on Tuesday.

“That will obviously have impacts in a positive way in terms of restricting the in-flow, and in fact in most cases eliminating it in places like Perth and South Australia and ports that do not have direct flights [from India]”

Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr Emily Kirkpatrick said on Tuesday Tom’s Court has 11 available rooms remaining to house COVID-positive patients.

Two people are currently being treated at the Royal Adelaide Hospital for COVID-19, with SA Health yesterday reporting one new COVID-19 case in hotel quarantine.

Federal Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews this morning said about 9000 Australians in India now face the reality of no flights home until at least May 15.

“As soon as it’s possible for us to look at flights to bring them back to Australia, we will be doing all that we can to make that happen,” she told Sky News this morning.

“Our heart goes out to those people and their families.”

Andrews encouraged the stranded Australians to use personal protective equipment if they have access to it and to follow health guidelines being promoted in Australia such as social distancing and thorough hand washing.

The federal government will review health advice closer to May 15 and Australians deemed to be vulnerable will be the priority when flights resume.

India has recorded more than 300,000 new coronavirus cases each day for the past week.

Australia’s High Commissioner to India Barry O’Farrell acknowledged people were worried about the struggling health system in the South Asian nation.

“That’s the anxiety, that’s the concern,” he told Sky News.

“But until the flight situation to Australia is reviewed in three weeks time they will have no certainty about what that return is going to be.”

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said work was being done to set up charter planes for vulnerable people as soon as practically possible.

Top health officials believe the hotel quarantine system is still fit for purpose despite the surge in cases across Australia from returning travellers from India.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said it was impossible to fully prevent the virus spreading within hotels.

“We expect that there will be transmission in quarantine,” he told a Senate inquiry on Tuesday.

“The important thing is that it doesn’t transmit outside of quarantine and if it does, that it’s picked up quickly.”

-With AAP

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