Air India has announced eight evacuation flights between India and Australia under the Vande Bharat Mission.
The Vande Bharat Mission Phase 3 flights – four each to originally Melbourne and Sydney, to be operated from today, July 1 to July 14, will now be affected as Victoria has gone back into lockdown in COVID-19 hotspots in Melbourne.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced all international flights coming into Melbourne will be diverted to other destinations for at least Two weeks.
There had been “unacceptable infection control breaches in hotel quarantine”, the Premier said.
“That’s why we have cancelled those flights … It is why there have been changes made in the way hotel quarantine operates and we will have an inquiry to determine exactly what has gone on here.”
The Premier has also announced an inquiry into the state’s hotel quarantine program which has been named as source of a number of new infections in this second wave which had hit Victoria. The inquiry will be conducted by a former judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria.
Thus all those bound for Melbourne aboard Air India flights will not be allowed into the state. The flights flying into Australia will terminate now in Sydney and perhaps Adelaide. Passengers are advised to keep checking with Air India, Indian missions and Airport staff.
All passengers, once in Australia, will go into quarantine for two weeks there and return a COVID-19 negative result before being allowed into the state.
Earlier, an Air India flight under Vande Bharat Mission took off from Melbourne on Saturday, June 20 with 246 passengers for Delhi and Mumbai.
“This morning, another flight AI0309 Melbourne-Delhi-Mumbai departed Australian shores carrying 246 passengers to their motherland in India. We wish you all a happy journey and safe stay back home. Thanks to all the supporting organisations,” Consulate General of India in Melbourne had written in a tweet.
Air India’s Vande Bharat Mission, since May, recently came on the radar after the US, France and the UAE governments raised objection to the monopolisation of international air traffic being undertaken by Air India.
Since the pandemic, India has regulated that no foreign airlines can enter India, while Air India continues to operate in these foreign countries under the Vande Bharat Mission.
India’s civil aviation ministry is understood to be in talks with some of the governments to enter into bilateral agreements to resume special international flights on a case-to-case basis.
Under the Vande Bharat Mission, Air India and its subsidiary Air India Express started operating international flights from May 7 onwards to repatriate stranded Indians from abroad. The first phase was from May 7 to May 16, following which the second phase began.
As many as 2,50,087 Indian nationals stranded abroad have been repatriated since the beginning of Vande Bharat Mission last month, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) release said.
The Vande Bharat Mission, which started from May 7 to evacuate Indians stranded abroad due to coronavirus pandemic, is in its third phase.
Under the third phase, India would have 550 flights including 191 feeder flights.