People wearing masks walk through a mostly empty domestic terminal at Sydney Airport in Sydney, Australia, December 21, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Loren Elliott
Melbourne: Premier of the Western Australia state Mark McGowan on Tuesday alleged that COVID-19 tests conducted in India for returning travellers were either inaccurate or unreliable which are impinging on the integrity of the system and causing some issues here.
McGowan’s remarks came after authorities in Western Australia said that four people in hotel quarantine in Perth tested positive for coronavirus following their return from India.
Western Australia health authorities are concerned that the majority of returning travellers were from India where the infection has been rising alarmingly.
McGowan told a local TV channel: “I have just been advised at this morning’s emergency management team meeting that 78 of the 79 passengers on this flight had been in India recently.”
“Our expectation is the number of positive cases from this group of people will grow and potentially grow significantly. We obviously have a problem with India. Some of the tests conducted in India either aren’t accurate or aren’t believable and clearly that’s causing some issues here,” McGowan said.
He pinpointed that the large numbers of people arriving in Australia with the virus showed the system was failing, and he questioned if all of the test results being produced by people before boarding flights were accurate.
”If there are tests that are inaccurate or a bit dodgy being produced so that people get on flights, that is impinging the integrity of the system and that is why we are suffering these problems,” he said.
McGowan also urged people not to travel to India unless there was an extreme emergency.
“In the middle of a pandemic that is killing hundreds of thousands of people across India, there is no need to go to India for anything but the most extreme of reasons now,” he said, adding, “I can’t think of many (reasons to be allowed to travel).”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison later announced that his country would be suspending flights from India until May 15 at least.
Meanwhile, home affairs Minister Karen Andrews on Tuesday said the situation in India was absolutely devastating.
”Hundreds of thousands of new cases each day, multiple deaths. I mean, it’s just an awful situation,” she said.
She confirmed that the government was also looking at issues such as the humanitarian support that Australia can provide to India.
”There’s already been some discussions about ventilators and oxygen and how we might be able to support India. And, of course, there are issues with getting travellers back to Australia and how we can best manage that.
”There’s a range of options clearly that need to be considered. Our primary responsibility is to keep Australians safe and secure. So that is our overarching responsibility. We do have obligations though to make sure that we can support Australians to come back home,” she said.
According to media reports earlier, the patient zero in Perth’s latest coronavirus outbreak was a man who travelled back from India after being given an exemption to travel there for a wedding.
Urging the federal government to tighten the international borders, McGowan said: ”I’d just urge the Commonwealth to stop letting people leave this country to go to weddings or other things overseas.
India is struggling with a second wave of the pandemic with more than 3,00,000 daily new coronavirus cases being reported in the past few days, and hospitals in several states are reeling under a shortage of medical oxygen and beds.
On Tuesday, the Union health ministry said that India’s total tally of COVID-19 cases has climbed to 1,76,36,307 with 3,23,144 people testing positive in a day, while the national recovery rate stands 82.54%. The death toll increased to 1,97,894 with 2,771 daily new fatalities, it said.