Australian citizens who are currently in India face heavy fines and the threat of five years imprisonment if they attempt to flee the COVID ravaged country and return home. An amendment to the Biosecurity Act means anyone arriving in Australia who has spent the last 14-days in India could be classed a criminal.
The legal changes, which were signed off on Friday and come into force on Monday, are believed to be the first time that Australians have been outright banned from returning home as part of the country’s largely successful response to the pandemic.
Direct flights from India to Australia have already been banned and Australians attempting to return home will now have to travel via a third country. In order to avoid prosecution, Australians making the journey home will now have to stay in the third country for at least 14-days.
The policy will be reviewed on May 15, although an extension is widely anticipated.
In contrast, the U.S. President signed an executive order on Friday that banned travel for foreign citizens from India to the United States but which exempted U.S. citizens, as well as their family members. So-called ‘essential travellers’ will also be allowed to travel from India to the U.S.
Australia’s health minister Greg Hunt said the “temporary pause” on all travel from India was necessary because of “unmanageable” numbers of travellers returning from India with COVID-19.
Anyone breaching the ban faces a fine of A$66,000, five years in jail or both.
All arrivals entering Australia must go into mandatory hotel quarantine for 14-days but there are fears that even this isn’t enough to stop community transmission. In recent weeks, infected travellers have passed the virus onto hotel workers and other guests – in some cases, hotel air conditioning systems have been blamed for moving the virus from room to room.
On Friday India set yet another record with 386,452 new cases reported in a single day. Even that number, however, is believed to be just the tip of the iceberg. The peak of India’s devastating second wave is not expected for at least another couple of weeks.
Photo Credit: Vidit Luthra / Shutterstock.com
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.