Sunday, December 5, 2021

Australian cricketers caught in India fly back home, after Maldives stay

A group of Australian cricketers have landed in Sydney from the Maldives where they were sheltering after fleeing the Covid crisis in India.

The players and staff had been involved in the Indian Premier League which was suspended this month.The 38 players and officials went to the Maldives a fortnight ago following the suspension of the IPL.

While the controversial ban was lifted on 15 May, thousands of Australians remain stranded in India.

The cricketers – among them former Australian captain Steve Smith, David Warner and Pat Cummins – will now complete 14 days’ quarantine in Sydney.

The cohort of more than 30 people travelled on a private flight from the Maldives where they had been staying since 6 May.

Cricket Australia had previously said the players and staff would not seek any special exemptions from the government, as Australia restricts the number of international arrivals allowed in each week.

Still, their arrival comes amid simmering frustration with the Australian government over the India restrictions and the plight of citizens stuck there.

Earlier this month the government said high rates of Covid infections seen in arrivals from India, which has seen one of the world’s worst outbreaks of the virus, was placing a significant burden on health services. To protect the community, it blocked arrivals from the country.

The government has begun repatriation flights, the first of those flights touched down on Saturday but was half-empty, after 70 passengers were barred from travel following positive Covid tests.

Strict rules on pre-flight testing meant there was not enough time for the seats to be given to others waiting to return.

A second flight is due to bring 150 Australians home on Monday but many have called for more support for Australians in India. Critics want the government to allow more commercial airlines to fly from India to Australia.

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