numbers returning from india cut because of increase in quarantine cases  Picture; Lukas Coch/AAP

The number of people allowed to return from India is to be reduced, as new restrictions are imposed on Australian citizens and permanent residents seeking to come from COVID “high risk” countries.

With COVID surging in India, the cases in quarantine among people arriving from India have risen significantly.

On Thursday India had recorded 314,835 new cases over the previous 24 hours – the highest daily rise recorded anywhere.

National cabinet decided to reduce the number of passengers on government-facilitated flights from India going to the quarantine centre at Howard Springs in the Northern Territory.

There will be a cut of about 30% in passenger numbers for people returning from India on government-facilitated flights next month.

Also, four of the scheduled facilitated flights will be delayed from May until June.

There will be a 30% cut on commercial flights direct from India to Australia.

Western Australian premier Mark McGowan had pressed for the restriction on arrivals from India, after about 40% of COVID cases in WA hotel quarantine in the last month had recently been in that country.

Federal officials are preparing a list of other high risk countries.

Anyone entering Australia who has been in a high risk country in the previous fortnight, and is transiting through a third country, will need to return a negative COVID test 72 hours before arriving from their last embarkation point.

The government will further restrict exemptions for travel to high risk countries. These will only be provided for “strictly essential” travel.

National cabinet also agreed to a recalibration of the vaccine rollout that will bring forward vaccinations for people aged between 50 and 69. They will get the AstraZeneca vaccine.

This will commence with general practice respiratory clinics and state and territory vaccination sites from May 3, followed by GP clinics from May 17.

The recalibration of the rollout follows the medical advice that people under 50 should not receive the AstraZeneca vaccine because of the very small risk of blood clots.

Access to the Pfizer vaccine is limited to people under 50, for whom it is the preferred vaccine, and certain other designated groups.

The Pfizer vaccine has to come from overseas. The secretary of the Health Department, Brendan Murphy, declined to give numbers for weekly projected arrivals of vaccines from overseas.

This article was written by:

Michelle Grattan – [Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra]


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