News National Plane mercy: Mission to bring Australia’s most vulnerable home

Plane mercy: Mission to bring Australia’s most vulnerable home

A private charter flight has been arranged to fly vulnerable Australians home from Delhi. Photo: TND
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Each morning since February, Joy Jadeja’s 10-month-old daughter has woken up with a heat rash and her skin covered in mosquito bites.

The pair has been living under lockdown in Delhi for more than two months after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi halted all flights due to the coronavirus.

They have been desperate to return home to Australia.

On Wednesday their nightmare will be over, as they join dozens of elderly, pregnant and sick Australians on a private charter flight home.

Organisers Vishal Sardana and Arun Sharma, both from Sydney, said the flight was specifically arranged for vulnerable Australians.

“That’s what the whole purpose of this flight was,” Mr Sardana told The New Daily. 

“The elderly, pregnant women, infants – all those people got first priority, and it got booked out in a matter of hours.”

The flight plans come as India reported its biggest daily jump in virus-related deaths and cases, with the Indian health department confirming 195 deaths in the 24 hours to Tuesday, taking the total to 1568.

After months caring for her “upset” baby in sweltering lockdown conditions, Ms Jadeja said she can’t wait to step out onto the tarmac at Sydney Airport.

“If I could redo this whole thing, I would never have left Australia,” the 30-year-old solicitor told The New Daily. 

“Trying to look after a baby and work and do everything else is hard enough, let alone travelling with a baby during a pandemic.”

Sydney woman Joy Jadeja and her daughter Clara. Photo: Joy Jadeja

The young mother and her daughter Clara are among 300 Australians who secured seats on the private Singapore Airlines flight.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is scheduled to depart from Delhi at 9.55pm (local time) on Tuesday and is due to land in Sydney at 5.40pm on Wednesday.

Tickets cost $2350 and sold out within hours.

Several passengers told The New Daily they had wanted to come home earlier but didn’t have a chance to arrange flights before India was abruptly brought under a brutal nationwide lockdown.

On March 24, all flights were immediately cancelled and people were banned from leaving their homes except for one hour a day to get food.

Those who broke curfew risked being beaten by police.

About 7000 citizens and permanent residents were registered with the Australian High Commission in India when the extreme restrictions were announced.

Co-organiser of the rescue flight, Mr Sharma, said maintaining social distancing was “a big challenge in India”, with nearly 19 million people living in Delhi alone.

“It’s an amazing country for tourists but if you’re stuck in a room, unable to leave, without access to health facilities, it can be terrifying,” he told The New Daily.

Despite recording its biggest one-day surge in confirmed coronavirus cases on Sunday, India is beginning to loosen tough lockdown restrictions across the country.

The country’s confirmed infections have now passed 42,000, and the death toll has reached 1391.

Districts are classified into red, orange and green zones with varying levels of restrictions. However, ‘containment zones’ with a high number of cases remain in lockdown.