The first batch of Australian repatriates from Heathrow, London have landed at the Darwin International Airport today and were transported directly to the Howard Springs quarantine facility for two weeks of mandatory quarantine.
The Qantas flight, carrying 161 Australians, is one of four flights that will bring home stranded Aussies from New Delhi, Johannesburg, and Heathrow over the next month, as part of the Federal and NT governments’ plan to repatriate more than 30,000 Australians stranded overseas during the pandemic lockdowns.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said on Friday the Federal Government is considering rolling out more special flights after the initial eight across the country.
“We will identify the need that exists to see whether we continue any flights beyond these eight flights, but to load a flight of 174 passengers out of London this morning has taken 1,300 phone calls, 740 emails. It is a very labour-intensive process for our consular staff,” she told the ABC Radio on Friday morning.
The NT Government has said it will be working on around 500 arrivals a fortnight.
Qantas 110 (QF110) departed from Heathrow, London at 11:34 am on Thursday, but was 34 minutes late according to Flight Aware. It landed 11:53am at the Darwin International Airport, making it a 15-hour and 49 minute flight.
Among the passengers who had been stranded in the United Kingdom were 22 children, nine of whom are infants born in the UK.
As part of the NT Health’s protocol, the passengers will be processed at RAAF Base Darwin and will undergo health examinations before allowing to proceed to Howard Springs for a 14-days mandatory quarantine.
An update to quarantine guidelines will see stricter protocols for international arrivals, with the Chief Health Officer stating they will not be allowed to leave the balconies attached to their rooms.
The CHO’s guidelines also stated international arrivals will be “subject to regular health checks” to “support the early detection of COVID-19”.
Minister Payne admitted getting stranded Australians out of India has been a particularly difficult challenge as there haven’t been any commercial flights from the country since March.
Private information breach
The Foreign Affairs Minister has also apologised after the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Officials accidentally revealed the email addresses of a number of vulnerable Australians stuck overseas.
According to the Guardian Australia, the Australian embassy in Paris on Wednesday disclosed the details of at least 15 people when it emailed Australians who were stranded in France.
“I am very sorry that these events have occurred. And as you say, this is the third occasion. I am sorry that they have occurred,” Minister Payne told ABC’s AM.
“I know our officials are trying very hard to support as many Australians as they possibly can overseas. It is important to be careful with people’s private information, and that has absolutely been reinforced to my department,” she said.