How stranded Aussies can get home from Europe
Thousands of Australians scrambling to get back from Europe have been given hope with new guaranteed flights back home.
Qatar Airways has kept Doha airport open and will fly to Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide.
British Airways was still running some flights to Australia via Singapore, but passengers were staying on-board when they arrived at Changi Airport.
Singapore has cancelled all flights transiting through Singapore, with even Singapore Airlines ditching its services while it tries to avoid a coronavirus catastrophe.
More than 8700 people had made calls to the Australian High Commission in London seeking urgent advice.
However, there were as many as 800,000 Australians abroad when the coronavirus hit and have now been trying to find a way home.
Qatar was flying through London, as well as other major European hubs, giving Australians in Europe a lifeline.
George Brandis, Australian High Commissioner for the UK, said he was trying to get as many Australians home as possible.
"For over a hundred years, one of the core responsibilities of Australia House has been to communicate with Australians in the UK, to keep them safe and protect their wellbeing. In the current crisis, that role has never been more important," he said.
"The dedicated staff here at Australia House are doing everything we can to keep Australians safe and to stay connected with them."
The UK government this week announced a $150 million fund to get hundreds of thousands of Brits home, with some travellers stuck in hostels in Peru for up to three months while they deal with lockdowns.
Australians wanting to get back have been warned to act now because the flights were not expected to last beyond the middle of April.
Noah Nicholas, 21, of Barwon Heads in Victoria, said he was lucky to get out of France, where he was studying on exchange at the Jean Moulin University.
"I was blase about the whole thing but my parents at home were panicking," he said.
"I had thought about renting an AirBNB in Malta and bunkering down for a month but then reality sunk in."
Nicholas made his way from France to London before jumping on a flight back home.
The University of Melbourne history student said France had a laid back attitude to its lockdown before he left.
"No-one seemed to give two hoots about it, there were still old people walking around," he said.
Elizabeth Ames, national director of the Britain-Australia Society, said that the real time information Australians in London have received has been helpful.
She urged Australians in Europe to get home now, because the government would have to prioritise mercy flights for people in far flung places.
"It's difficult because you have Aussies stranded in places. The High Commission has been working hard to keep those costs as low as possible," she said.
"Even if you get a repatriation flight from the government you will still have to pay something.
"One of the problems has been people thinking the government will fly them home, the government has limited resources and needs to focus on places that can't get a flight out."
For Australians in the UK - call 020 7887 5555.
For Australians outside Europe - call +61 2 6261 3305
Originally published as How stranded Aussies can get home from Europe