Jail term awaits Aussies returning from India, flouting Covid-19 entry ban

CANBERRA, 1 May 2021:

Australians returning to their country from India from Monday – when a return ban comes into force – could face jail and a fine, Canberra has warned.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg today defended the “drastic” decision adopted yesterday by the government for those who have been in India for 14 days before their arrival in Australia, saying the measures are “designed to keep Australians safe.”

Those who circumvent the temporary ban will be charged with violating the Biosafety Act, punishable by up to five years in prison and fines of up to A$66,000.

This is the first time Australian authorities have prohibited their citizens from returning home, according to national broadcaster ABC.

Frydenberg said the government has acted on the advice of medical experts in the face of the “very serious” situation in India, the current epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic and which recorded a new daily high of 401,993 cases, with 3,523 deaths today.

“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,” health minister Greg Hunt said in a statement last night.

The government of Australia, a country that has about 9,000 nationals in India, has suspended air connections with the South Asian country and will review the measure on May 15, in addition to committing to send emergency health aid.

Australia closed its international borders with few exceptions at the beginning of the pandemic and only allows its citizens to travel to New Zealand, with whom it has implemented an air bubble.

Australians who want to return to the country have been forced on to a long waiting list due to the shortage of onshore quarantine hotel rooms.

The country, which has practically returned to normality, has recorded 29,801 cases since the start of the pandemic, including 910 deaths.