Hundreds of Australians stranded in Peru, Argentina and South Africa following coronavirus border closures will be brought home on a series of Qantas rescue flights.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said a flight departed the US this morning to bring 280 Australians home from Peru.
“The flight which is departing San Diego this morning is bringing Australians out of Lima, Cusco and Iquitos, so it has done a bit of a sweep. Two planes are doing that sweep,” Ms Payne told reporters.”
“Then one flight from LATAM (Airlines) will bring people to Melbourne. We are trying to assist New Zealanders as we can.”
Ms Payne said a second Qantas flight from Lima will take place nearly next week, subject to the availability of the plane.
Each traveller is paying $2550 each for a seat on a rescue flight back to Australia.
“Australians are paying for those tickets themselves. Where there is a real difficulty for Australians to afford those flights, we have encouraged them to engage with friends and family for the purposes of that process,” she said.
These are not the first rescue flights the government has organised during the coronavirus pandemic. In February, evacuation flights were sent to Wuhan, China – the once-epicentre of the virus – to bring Australians home.
On March 13, the Australian government advised all Australians to reconsider overseas travel, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison introducing a travel ban on March 18.
On March 25 the government put in place a travel ban on Australians leaving Australia, except for certain exemptions. The travel bans left thousands of Australian travellers stranded.
Ms Payne said the government is also hoping to have similar rescue flights from India and the Philippines. She is also in talks with authorities in Cambodia and Lebanon.
“We will continue to work on getting Australians home in a way that is safe for them and also safe for Australians in Australia,” she said.
“We have worked with Qantas and Virgin, the two Australian major airlines… and key hubs like London, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Auckland across the next two weeks to help Australians return.”
On March 24, the Indian government ordered a nationwide lockdown for 21 days, limiting the movement of its estimated 1.3 billion population.
“There are tens of thousands of Australians in India at any one time, many of them long-term residents of course. What the High Commission has determined with the work that they are doing is Australians are literally all over India as well,” she said.
“We are actively trying to identify options for a commercial charter flight.
“The lockdown is continuing, and we will keep doing that and provide advice to Australians as soon as we are able to.
“We thought we had made some headway earlier in the week, but that did not progress, so we are continuing to do that.”But I would absolutely encourage Australians, whatever they are, if there are flights available, they should take them.”
Nine.com.au understands there are more than one million Australians living and working overseas, with more than 200,000 Australian citizens and permanent residents returning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and are used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.