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NEW DELHI : The Indian government has finalized an air bubble agreement with Australia, which will allow all eligible passengers to travel between the two countries.

A bilateral air bubble is a mechanism to resume flights between two nations with preconditions during the pandemic.

As things stand, scheduled international flight operations remain suspended at least till 31 January 2022, according to a recent notification by civil aviation regulator the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

However, dedicated cargo flights, flights under the bilateral air bubble pacts with select countries continue to operate.

India currently has bilateral air bubble agreements with 33 countries, which include Afghanistan, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Canada, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Iraq, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Singapore, Seychelles, Switzerland, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, the UAE, the UK, and the USA, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

Australian airline Qantas has recently started flights between Sydney and New Delhi. The airline is also set to start flights between New Delhi and Melbourne before Christmas.

Air India also operated direct commercial flights connecting New Delhi with Melbourne and Sydney before scheduled international flights were suspended by the Indian government.

Air India flights between India and Australia will resume in coming days, said a senior official with the airline.

"Australia is an important market for the airline and we expect a good demand," the official added, requesting anonymity.

India suspended international flight operations, effective 23 March 2020. This was periodically extended every month till 30 November, before the government on 26 November announced plans to resume scheduled international flight services.

However, on 1 December, the Indian government announced that it had rolled back plans to resume scheduled international flight operations from 15 December, five days after making the announcement, following the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus mutant.

Major economies across the world have rushed to take precautionary measures after scientists said they had found a highly virulent and possibly vaccine-resistant variant of the covid-19 virus in South Africa.

The UK has said the 'Omicron' variant was the most significant one found yet, and temporarily banned flights from six southern African countries - South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, and Namibia.

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