Australians and citizens who have been in India within 14 days of the date they plan to return home will be barred from entering Australia from Monday, and those who do not comply will face fines. and prison, government officials said.
The interim emergency decision, issued late Friday, is the first time Australia has imposed a penalty on its citizens to return home.
The move is part of austerity measures to stop travelers to Australia from India as it fights the rise in Covid-19 cases and deaths.
The restrictions take effect on May 3rd, and violating the ban risks civil penalties and up to five years in prison, Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement.
“The government doesn̵
“However, it is crucial that the integrity of 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 government will review the restrictions on May 15th.
The death toll from coronavirus in India topped 200,000 this week, with more than 19 million cases as new virulent strains were combined with “super-spread” events such as political rallies and religious festivals.
The increase in cases prompted President Joe Biden to impose new restrictions on travel to India on Friday, banning most non-US citizens from entering the United States.
Neela Janakiramanan, an Australian surgeon with a family in India, said the decision to “criminalize” Australians returning from India was disproportionate and too criminal.
“Indo-Australians see this as a racist policy because they treat us differently from people in other countries who have had similar waves of infection as the United States, Britain and Europe. An ethnic group.”
Human rights groups also expressed outrage at the ban, suggesting that the government’s focus should be on improving the quarantine system, not punishment.
“This is a scandalous response. Australians have the right to return to their own country,” Human Rights Watch, Elaine Pearson, director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
“The government should look for ways to safely quarantine Australians returning from India, instead of focusing its efforts on prison sentences and harsh punishments.”
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Australia, which has no broadcasts from the community, on Tuesday imposed a suspension of direct flights from India until mid-May. However, some Australians, including cricketers Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson, have returned via Qatar.
Tuesday’s move left more than 9,000 Australians stranded in India, 650 of whom were registered as vulnerable, officials said.
Australia almost eliminated the coronavirus after closing its borders to non-citizens and permanent residents in March 2020, registering only 910 deaths.