An Australian man has died in Covid-ravaged India after contracting the virus, authorities have confirmed.
The 59-year-old died on Wednesday in Delhi but Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she was unable to comment further on the circumstances of his death.
Ms Payne said the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade were providing support and assistance to the man’s family.
‘Let me extend my sympathy, and that of the government, to the family of this person and to so many families that we know are dealing with what is an extraordinary challenge, with infection rates surging,’ she told 2GB on Friday.
‘There are very many families dealing with this challenge.’
The man’s daughter, Sonali Ralhan, who lives in Sydney wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday saying her family had been ‘abandoned’ by their own country.
‘I write to you with so much anger brewing inside me,’ she wrote.
An Australian man has died in Covid-ravaged India after contracting the virus, authorities have confirmed (pictured relatives in PPE carry dead body at a crematorium in Moradabad, India)
‘I am an Australian citizen and highly disappointed to be one today.
‘What nation disowns their own citizens? (It) is a matter of wonder for the entire world.’
She said her father had been an Australian permanent resident for ten years and her mother was still in India.
‘Now all I have left is my mother, who has been abandoned by her own government of Australia,’ Ms Ralhan said.
‘We all want to cry our hearts out, but we are saving them for when we are all together again.’
She told SBS News her parents had travelled to India at the end of last year and hadn’t managed to return home to Australia.
Her father, who managed a hotel in New Delhi, died just three days after the government put a ban on Australians returning home from India.
Ms Ralhan said she and her family had to source medical equipment to help her father in his dying days.
Health workers are seen attending to a patient in ICU at an Indian hospital in Moradabad
‘Each and every oxygen cylinder was paid by us, which was a constant battle. Even finding one oxygen cylinder in Delhi right now is a miracle,’ she told the publication.
The Sydney woman said she had contacted Australian embassy officials in India weeks ago asking for her parents to be brought home.
Australia’s High Commissioner to India Barry O’Farrell was asked by a senate committee hearing on Friday if he knew of any Australians who had died waiting to leave the South Asian country.
‘The department is aware and providing consular assistance, in accordance with its charter, to the family of an Australian permanent resident who reportedly has died in India,’ he said.
‘I’m advised, owing to our privacy obligations, we won’t be providing any further comment.’
More than 350,000 Covid cases were recorded in India on Wednesday alone. Pictured: a banquet hall temporarily converted into a coronavirus ward in New Delhi
He added that India’s nightly reported infection rate was in the hundreds of thousands of cases – greater than Canberra’s population – and that he doubted anyone could say with certainty Australians were not among the fatalities.
Mr Morrison has announced Australians stuck in India are a priority for repatriation flights which will commence next week.
However, those who fail a pre-flight coronavirus test will be banned from boarding when rescue planes restart from May 15.
Mr Morrison on Friday said the India travel ban would end on schedule, following a fierce backlash against the harsh measures.
‘The pause that we put in place for travelers coming back from India is working,’ he told reporters in Newcastle.
India and nearby Nepal (pictured is Kathmandu) are battling a devastating third wave of coronavirus
India’s Covid-19 crisis spiked out of control this week with daily deaths exceeding 3,000. Pictured: relatives wearing PPE perform the last rites before cremation of relative who died
Three repatriation flights – each carrying 150 people – will land in the Northern Territory and Australians on board will quarantine at the Howard Springs facility in Darwin.
The remote accommodation has been expanded from a capacity of 850 people up to 2000.
‘Rapid antigen testing is a requirement and a negative test to get on a flight to Australia. I’m sure that’s what all Australians would expect,’ Mr Morrison said.
The new measures for all resuming flights from India into the Northern Territory, will require passengers to return both a negative COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test and a negative Rapid Antigen test before boarding.
The Federal Government will use the Howard Springs quarantine facility (pictured) in the NT to exclusively house Australian travellers fleeing Covid-ravaged India
Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner said these measures help Australians return home from India safely, while ensuring the case load at Howard Springs remains manageable.
‘The Territory always stands ready to help our fellow Australians and we were there to help those first Aussies home from Wuhan at the start of this pandemic,’ Chief Minister Gunner said.
‘There is a humanitarian crisis in India and we have the gold standard facility with the health care heroes the country needs at our Centre for National Resilience to help get Australians home safely.’
The federal government has also confirmed NSW, Queensland and Victoria will also begin allowing direct flights from India next week.
While South Australia is considering the move ‘favourably’.
Scott Morrison has pledged to lift the capacity of Howard Springs (pictured) from 850 to 2000 beds this month