The federal government will be able to fine and jail anyone who tries to enter Australia from India amid that country’s COVID-19 crisis. Australia’s borders have been closed since March last year and, this week, the government clamped down even further, banning all flights, including repatriation dashes, from India.
There are at least 36,000 Australians stuck abroad who are trying to get home but cannot because of the strict quarantine limits on how many people can enter the country per week. Atleast 9000 of those are in India and more than 600 are classified as vulnerable.
Nine reported that Mr Hunt would invoke powers under the Biosecurity Act – the same legislation used to close the borders – as soon as Saturday. Earlier, the national cabinet issued a statement saying it “expressed solidarity with the Indian community both within Australia and overseas”.
It comes after Australian cricketers Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson flew home from India via Qatar on a flight that departed just before the border between Australia and India was sealed at 7pm on Wednesday.
The ABC reported that the cricketers landed in Australia from Doha on Thursday, despite Prime Minister Scott Morrison stating on Tuesday that indirect flights from India through Doha, Dubai, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur had already “been paused by the respective governments”.
The Prime Minister said the loophole and been closed and foreshadowed more extreme measures earlier on Friday morning in an interview on 2GB radio.
“It was [a loophole] that became apparent to us on Wednesday and it was closed off at about seven-o’clock Wednesday evening,” he said.
“That flight that those cricketers were on managed to get away just before that. We had information on Monday that that wasn’t possible.”
“If this is true, Mr Morrison needs to stand up and explain it to the 9000 Australians he’s left stranded in India, and not hide behind his Health Minister,” she told the Herald and The Age.
“We should follow the health advice, but if Scott Morrison had kept his promise and got all the stranded Australians home by Christmas, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”
Constitutional law expert George Williams said the move was “very likely to be constitutional”.
India is in the grip of a second wave of the pandemic leading to hospitals being overrun and makeshift crematoriums burning non-stop.
India’s death toll climbed by another 3498 over the last 24-hour period to 208,330, but experts say the true figures are much higher.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald