More than 300,000 Australians and permanent residents have returned from overseas since the Government recommended that people reconsider the need to travel abroad.
We have facilitated the return of 16,500 of those Australians, including around 6,500 from cruise ships around the world.
The Government acknowledges the mutual cooperation of many foreign governments, cruise ship operators and airlines in organising the safe passage of Australians, particularly those in countries under movement restrictions and where commercial flight options have been either limited or non-existent.
Many Australians have taken flights supported by the Government from four key international hubs – London, Hong Kong, Los Angeles and Auckland.
The Government has also organised and facilitated more than 35 non-scheduled commercial services on multiple airlines to fly Australians from places where movement restrictions have been enforced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Australians in India have faced particular challenges given the country-wide lockdown imposed there. Our High Commission in India has so far assisted over 3500 Australians to leave, with another Qantas flight departing Delhi this evening. The Government has arranged four additional Qantas flights to Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai in the coming fortnight.
Since the Government first issued travel advice referencing the novel coronavirus on 21 January, 177 travel advisories have been updated more than 1600 times.
Our Embassies and High Commissions overseas posted hundreds of updates to their social media accounts with information and guidance for Australians wanting to leave.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has assisted Australians to return from a range of locations where scheduled commercial options were not available, including:
- Cambodia: 184 Australians from multiple locations on a commercial flight.
- Myanmar: 47 Australians on several commercial flights.
- Philippines: More than 1600 Australians on six flights to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, following 20 sweeper flights from across the Philippines.
- Thailand: 227 Australians on two flights including a non-scheduled Bangkok-Sydney service.
- Vietnam: Around 260 Australians on three Vietnam Airlines flights including a sweeper flight from Laos.
- Fiji: 144 Australians and permanent residents on a combination of private charters and ADF-facilitated humanitarian flights.
- Kiribati: 14 Australians on two flights.
- Samoa: Over 100 Australians on several commercial flights.
- Solomon Islands: 28 Australians on a facilitated commercial flight.
- Tonga: Over 90 Australians on several commercial flights.
- Vanuatu: 78 Australians on a private charter flight and an ADF facilitated humanitarian flight.
South and West Asia:
- Afghanistan: 66 Australians on a flight from Kabul to Doha to take flights onward to Australia.
- Bangladesh: Over 500 Australians on two facilitated commercial flights on Sri Lankan Airlines, with the second flight scheduled to arrive in Australia tonight.
- India: More than 3500 Australians on multiple flights, including Qantas, Qatar Airways and supported Lion Air charters, from New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.
- Nepal: Around 600 Australians have departed Kathmandu, including 231 on the first ever Nepal Airlines flight to Australia.
- Pakistan: Over 300 Australians departed Lahore on a Pakistan International Airlines flight.
- Argentina: 167 Australians and 14 New Zealanders from Buenos Aires on a Government-facilitated Qantas flight to Melbourne on ANZAC Day.
- Chile: Over 200 Australians and New Zealanders on LATAM Airlines flights from Santiago, after multiple sweeper flights across Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador.
- Peru: 680 Australians on three flights – two flights with Qantas and LATAM Airlines respectively, and a charter flight organised by Chimu Adventures, for which the Government provided the underwriting of costs.
- Uruguay: 140 Australians from Montevideo with Chimu Adventures, again supported by the Government, and 112 Australian and New Zealand passengers from the Greg Mortimer cruise ship – many of whom were COVID-19 positive – with Aurora Expeditions.
Europe, Africa and the Middle East:
- Austria: 23 Australians and 10 New Zealanders departed ski resorts in Tyrol and Vorarlberg provinces, to board onward flights from Vienna.
- Israel: 70 Australians on special El Al flights.
- Lebanon: Over 300 Australians on non-scheduled Qatar Airways flights.
- Morocco: 250 Australians on several commercial flights via London.
- Poland: 55 Australians on a Polish Airways flight.
- South Africa: 187 Australians with Qantas from Johannesburg to Melbourne and 255 with South African Airways from Cape Town to Perth.
- Saudi Arabia: 70 Australians on a special Saudi Arabian Airlines flight, organised with New Zealand.
This has been one of the largest consular challenges Australia has dealt with. DFAT staff in Canberra and at Posts abroad have been committed to providing Australians with practical solutions to return to Australia.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is doing all it can to assist Australians overseas who are still trying to return. Those Australians are advised to follow the social media account of their closest embassy or high commission for regular updates.
The health and safety of all Australians both at home and abroad is the government’s number one priority in these unprecedented times.