Australian citizens returning home from India could face up to five years in jail and fines as the government made the journey temporarily illegal, PTI reported on Saturday. The decision, announced after a meeting of the National Cabinet, will come into force from Monday.
The country’s Health Minister Greg Hunt said the new rule was based on the “proportion of overseas travellers in quarantine in Australia, who have contracted the infection in India”.
Last week, Australia had banned all direct flights from India till May 15 amid the second wave of coronavirus. Now, anyone who has been in India within 14 days of their intended arrival date in Australia will be banned from entering the country.
Failure to comply with an emergency determination under the Biosecurity Act, 2015 may incur a civil penalty of 300 penalty units, five years’ imprisonment or both, an official statement from the ministry said. The decision will be reviewed again on May 15.
The ministry said it was important that the integrity of the Australian public health and quarantine system were protected and the number of Covid-19 cases in isolation facilities was reduced to a manageable level.
It also expressed solidarity with India and said, “Our hearts go out to the people of India and our Indian-Australian community. The friends and family of those in Australia are in extreme risk.”
Meanwhile, on Friday, Australia extended the ambit of flight ban from India by shutting transit routes through Doha, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, ABC News reported. The decision was taken after two Australian cricketers, Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson, who left the Indian Premier League midway, took a Qatar Airways flight on Thursday afternoon to return to Australia. Another cricketer Andrew Tye had also left the tournament and reached Australia before the ban kicked in.
“We have directly dealt with the airlines in Qatar, so those transit passengers...are no longer coming through from Doha,” Morrison told Nine Radio. Following the decision, Qatar Airways put out a statement saying it was not selling tickets currently from India to Australia via the country.
Earlier, Morrison had said that players participating in the IPL will not be given any preferential treatment for returning to the country amid the flight ban. Nearly 9,000 Australians are currently stranded in India, according to ABC News.