Australia is to reduce flights from India as the populous South Asian nation buckles under an overwhelming "severe" third wave of COVID-19, this time a deadly and virulent "double mutant" strain.
COVID-19 cases in India are skyrocketing, pushing the health system close to collapse. It has reported 315,000 new cases over the previous 24 hours, while there has been a spike in the number of travellers returning to Australia testing positive to COVID-19.
National cabinet, which met Thursday afternoon, will also move to limit departure exemptions for travel to all high-risk nations so only in very urgent circumstances would an exemption be permitted, as well any travellers heading to Australia from high-risk nations would be required to pass a COVID test before departing.
The changes, which will take effect in the next few months, will apply to government-organised repatriation flights and commercial flights, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
"I wouldn't be suggesting anyone from a high-risk country be rushing back to Australia, and we will be looking to put this in place very soon," Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
There are still about 40,000 stranded Australians trying to get home. There are also many international students back to Australia 18 months after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Australian National University wants the federal and ACT governments to keep working together on a solution to bring more students home, and has offered space at its campus to quarantine returned Australian travellers.
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