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Cabinet’s National Security Committee has signed off on a plan to begin repatriating Australians stranded in India as soon as the temporary ban is lifted next week.

Key points:

  • All Australians returning from India will quarantine at the Howard Springs facility, which is expected to be nearly empty by next Saturday
  • Around 900 Australians who are listed as vulnerable by the Department of Foreign Affairs will be given priority
  • It is unclear whether commercial flights will also be able to restart, with one government source saying it will be a slow and steady process

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to announce the details tomorrow, in what will come as a relief to the estimated 9,000 Australians stuck in the COVID-ravaged country.

It is understood the first repatriation flight will leave Australia for India almost as soon as the ban is lifted on May 15 and will have the capacity to bring home around 200 passengers.

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All Australians returning from India will quarantine outside Darwin at the Howard Springs facility, which is expected to be nearly empty by next Saturday.

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Around 900 Australians who have been listed as “vulnerable” by the Department of Foreign Affairs will be given priority. But they will need to return two negative COVID-19 tests before they are allowed to fly.

Before the government imposed the travel ban, it had been chartering two flights to India each week to bring Australians home. The ABC has been told there would be a maximum of one repatriation flight per week once travel resumes.

It is unclear whether commercial flights will also be able to restart, with one government source saying it would be a slow and steady process.

The government has come under sustained pressure for not only banning anyone in India from flying to Australia but making it a criminal offence to do so, punishable by hefty fines and imprisonment.

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