IPL Australian cricketers caught by India COVID ban return home after Maldives stopover

A group of Australian cricketers have landed in Sydney after spending up to two weeks in the Maldives waiting for coronavirus border restrictions to be lifted on arrivals from India.

The Indian Premier League (IPL) was suspended on 4 May amid concerns over rising COVID infection levels in the country.

Tournament organisers urged players from all over the world to return to their native countries as soon as possible.

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4 May 2021: IPL ends over positive COVID tests in bubbles

However, the Australian cohort – players, coaches and commentators – were unable to return home because the government had temporarily barred incoming travellers from India.

Most of the Australians relocated to the Maldives and waited for the travel ban to be lifted before getting a private flight home.

The cricketers – among them Pat Cummins and David Warner – will have to spend two weeks in hotel quarantine.

Their return has attracted some criticism in light of the thousands of Australians who remain stranded in India, with Australia restricting the number of international arrivals each week.

The New South Wales state government has co-ordinated a quarantine arrangement for the cricket contingent that does not impact on the capped, overstretched system in place for travellers arriving from abroad.

Australia's Pat Cummins and David Warner. Pic: Action Images via Reuters

There has been criticism of the Australian cohort’s return while thousands remain stranded in India. Pic: Action Images via Reuters

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the cricketers “did not take one place in quarantine that anyone else have otherwise had”.

“That’s something we insisted on with the New South Wales state government when they were going to allow that flight back in,” he added.

On Saturday, the first repatriation flight from New Delhi arrived half-empty in the northern city of Darwin, as many who had planned to travel were denied boarding after testing positive for the virus.

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COVID in Delhi a ‘national disaster’

Mr Morrison defended the testing requirements: “I have seen the suggestions from others who seem to think that we can put people who have tested COVID-positive on planes and bring them into Australia.

“That just doesn’t make any sense,” he told reporters.

Six government-chartered flights, each with a 150-passenger capacity, are expected to return Australians from India before the end of this month.

Australia doesn’t expect scheduled international flights to return to normal until mid-2022.

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The recent surge of new infections in India – faster than anywhere else in the world – has left the healthcare system in the world’s second-largest country by population on the brink of collapse.

Hospitals have been running out of oxygen, with families left trying to - supplies privately to try and help loved ones.

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