First Grace’s flight from Covid-riddled India will be half empty after 40 passengers test positive

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First Grace flight from Covid-riddled India will fly half empty after FORTY passengers test positive for virus – with thousands still begging to come home

A Qantas repatriation flight bound for Australia from coronavirus-ravaged India will be half empty after 40 passengers have tested positive.

The plane will be the first to land in Australia within weeks after the federal government imposed a travel ban on flights to and from India, which has recorded more than 300,000 daily coronavirus infections in the past three weeks.

The flight departs New Delhi on Friday evening and will land in Darwin on Saturday morning after 9:00 AM, where passengers will be taken to an old mining camp in Howard Springs for a two-week quarantine.

The flight’s capacity has been reduced to 150 passengers due to social distance, but more than 70 will not be able to fly.

The figure includes more than 40 people who tested positive for COVID-19 and their close contacts.

A plane to bring home the first group of the 9,000 Australians stranded in coronavirus-ravaged India (pictured) will take off from the Northern Territory

A plane to bring home the first group of the 9,000 Australians stranded in coronavirus-ravaged India (pictured) will take off from the Northern Territory

Stranded civilians and permanent residents must test negative for COVID-19 before getting the green light to board a flight home.

About 10,000 Australians, permanent residents and immediate family members remain stranded in India, desperate to stay at home.

On Friday afternoon, a Qantas plane took off from Darwin International Airport, with only 12 hours to go before the federal government’s travel ban expires.

NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner confirmed Friday that the Howard Springs facility will be able to be in quarantine for two weeks by the end of June.

“For the rest of May, 450 are expected from India and 600 from London and Istanbul,” he told Seven Network.

Three flights from India are expected to land in Darwin in May and early June (pictured, other passengers arriving there in October)

Three flights from India are expected to land in Darwin in May and early June (pictured, other passengers arriving there in October)

Mr Gunner said there was a lot of sympathy in Darwin for the Australians and residents trying to get home.

The NT recorded the first returning Australians from Wuhan, China, which was then the global epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak, in February last year.

There have never been any breaches of the facility.

“No complacency,” said Mr. Gunner, “but we’ve challenged ourselves to always get better.”

On Thursday, the NT government warned that the Covid-19 contamination rate among those returning from India could be in the double digits.

About 200 repatriated Australians are expected to begin their two-week quarantine in Howard Springs over the next week.

It will be some of the most vulnerable among the 9,000 stranded in the Covid-ravaged subcontinent, which causes an average of 300,000 new infections per day.

NT health officials are preparing for 10 percent of passengers on Saturday’s flight to become infected – five times more than repatriation flights from other countries.

About 200 repatriated Australians are expected to begin a two-week quarantine at Darwin's Howard Springs facility once the travel ban is lifted on May 15 (photo Scott Morrison at the facility in April)

About 200 repatriated Australians are expected to begin a two-week quarantine at Darwin’s Howard Springs facility once the travel ban is lifted on May 15 (photo Scott Morrison at the facility in April)

Three flights from India are expected to land in Darwin in May and early June.

That will push the population of Howard Springs to about 1,200 people and to 2,000 by the end of June

The facility can treat about 100 positive cases, but the AUSMAT and NT Health teams hope to keep that number at 50.

About 490 people are quarantined in Howard Springs, where the number of people with coronavirus dropped to five from over 50 two weeks ago.

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