Australians stranded in Peru, Argentina and South Africa will have the chance to come home on three more coronavirus rescue flights.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the government had struck a deal with Qantas on the flights.’
They will follow 280 Australians on a plane that left Peru and Chile on Thursday – at the cost of $2550 per person.
Senator Payne said Australians would be expected to pay for a seat on the three confirmed Qantas flights, but emergency assistance would be available.
“The Australian government is also assisting by ensuring that these flights have the necessary clearances and approvals in countries where Australian airlines normally don’t fly,” she said in Canberra.
“Some of this is new for Qantas so we are assisting with that process.
“We are exploring similar options to facilitate flights from other destinations in coming weeks and they will include, I hope, subject to permissions in those countries, India and the Philippines.”
Today we farewelled passengers from Lima, Cusco and Iquitos. We have now facilitated more than 570 Aussies to return home from Peru 🇵🇪 Further ✈ to come shortly. If you have not done so please register at firstname.lastname@example.org pic.twitter.com/rKzPo0Ooca
— Diana Nelson (@embauslima) April 8, 2020
Thousands of Australians remain overseas, and many have found themselves stuck in countries that have locked down their borders and imposed tough internal travel restrictions due to the pandemic.
The federal government has been negotiating access to those countries, after pleas for assistance from Australian citizens.
Senator Payne said moves were underway to secure further flights to Australia, including from India and the Philippines.
“We have ambassadors in places like Cambodia and Lebanon who have negotiated or are negotiating with airlines in relation to commercial flights to enable those to occur,” she said.
There are particular concerns for Australian citizens in India, which is in the middle of a country-wide lockdown.
“There are tens of thousands of Australians in India at any one time, many of them long-term residents of course,” she said.
“We are actively trying to identify options for a commercial charter flight.
“The lockdown is continuing, and we will … provide advice to Australians as soon as we are able to.”
Senator Payne said the federal government had worked with Qantas and Virgin to establish a network between the major transport hubs of Los Angeles, London, Hong Kong and Auckland for the next four weeks.