The Australian Government has decided to issue a ban for all travellers coming from India wishing to enter Australia.
India has seen an exponential rise in COVID-19 cases during the past few weeks, with over 200,000 new cases registered this week and most of the cases attributed to the most infectious variants of the virus. Australia has therefore issued a temporary emergency determination that makes it a criminal offence to enter the country having spent some time in India during the previous 14 days. Only citizens and permanent residents are currently allowed to enter Australia, and whoever disobeys this measure will have to face steep fines up to 66,600 Australian dollars (more than £37,000) and up to five years in jail.
“The government does not make these decisions lightly,” Australian Health Minster Greg Hunt said, “however, it is critical the integrity of the Australian public health and quarantine systems is protected and the number of Covid-19 cases in quarantine facilities is reduced to a manageable level.”
The measure will come into force on 3 May and will remain in place for at least 12 days. It will be re-evaluated on 15 May when it will be decided whether it will be necessary to extend it. It is estimated that approximately 9,000 Australian citizens are now stranded in India unable to return to their country, Reuters reports.
The decision by the Australian Government to criminalize attempts by Australian citizens to return to their country escaping COVID-ravaged India has been criticized by the Australian Human Rights Commission.
“The need for such restrictions must be publicly justified,” the Human Rights Commission said to TV New Zealand. “The government must show that these measures are not discriminatory and the only suitable way of dealing with the threat to public health. Australians have a right of return to their own country”.