Returning Filipinos from India will undergo “hard, long and strict” quarantine requirements once the travel restriction is lifted as the South Asian nation’s coronavirus caseload topped 20 million on Tuesday.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the more stringent quarantine requirements aim to prevent the spread of the coronavirus variant believed to have caused the unexpected surge of cases in the world’s second most populous country.
More than 350,000 new cases were reported in India Tuesday, a drop from the peak of 402,000 last week, giving some cause for optimism that the worst of the devastating wave may have passed.
“If daily cases and deaths are analyzed, there is a very early signal of movement in the positive direction,” senior health ministry official Lav Aggarwal told reporters.
“But these are very early signals. There is a need to further analyze it.”
India’s healthcare infrastructure has struggled to cope with the huge number of cases, with deep shortages of medicines, hospital beds and medical oxygen.
“I must warn you, even if flights are resumed, the quarantine requirements for them will be especially hard, long and strict. We can’t afford to get the variant,” Locsin said in a Twitter post.
Earlier, Philippine Ambassador to India Ramon Bagatsing Jr. said Filipinos there have set up a chat group to serve as a COVID support network where the embassy can address their needs in terms of medicines and food.
“We have satellite groups of Filipino communities where they send text messages and chat on the situation of Filipinos in certain areas. Filipinos in those areas are helping each other and the embassy provides as much support as we can on our own,” Bagatsing said in a virtual media briefing.
The ambassador said 73 Filipinos have tested positive for COVID-19 with mild to moderate symptoms while two others died after contracting the disease in India.
He said some 70 Filipinos have expressed their intent to be repatriated to the Philippines.
However, Bagatsing said the repatriation of Filipinos may have to wait until the condition improves, noting that travel restrictions for passengers coming from India are currently in effect in many countries, even for transiting travelers.
In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison fended off accusations of racism and having blood on his hands as he retreated from a threat to jail Australians trying to escape COVID-wracked India.
Morrison’s government moved to ban travelers from India from entering Australia until May 15, threatening rule-breakers – including Australian citizens – with prison time.
Amid a widespread backlash, Morrison on Tuesday said it was “highly unlikely” that Australians who skirted a ban would be jailed.
“I think the likelihood of any of that occurring is pretty much zero,” Morrison said in a breakfast-time media blitz.
Around 9,000 Australians are believed to be in India, where hundreds of thousands of new coronavirus cases are being detected every day and the death toll is soaring.
Among those trapped are some of Australia’s most high-profile sporting stars – cricketers playing in the lucrative Indian Premier League. With AFP