Australians trying desperately to return home from COVID-stricken India will face fines and jail time, according to treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who defended the hardline approach as “drastic” but necessary, and denied it’s “irresponsible” to leave fellow Australians stranded.
“We have taken drastic action to keep Australians safe, and what we face in India is a very serious situation where the medical advice provided to the federal government has been to put in place these strict measures,” said Frydenberg, adding “We’ve acted on the medical advice.”
“The situation in India is dire. It is very serious. More than 200,000 people have died and there are more than 300,000 new cases a day.”
As The Guardian reports, the move comes after two Australian cricketers circumvented a travel ban after traveling from India to Qatar before returning home, after the government banning all direct flights from India.
After Friday’s meeting of the national cabinet, the prime minister, Scott Morrison, issued a statement saying governments “noted the measures that have been put in place to restrict entry into Australia of people who have previously been in high-risk countries determined by the chief medical officer”.
“National cabinet noted the chief medical officer’s assessment that India is the first country to meet the threshold of a high-risk country,” the statement said.
It foreshadowed “further measures to mitigate risks of high-risk travellers entering Australia” but did not flag criminalising returns explicitly.
Earlier in the day, Morrison told Sydney radio station 2GB a loophole whereby travellers could get around the India flight ban by transiting through a third country was closed on Wednesday evening. -The Guardian
“That flight that those cricketers were on managed to get away just before that,” added Morrison. “We had information on Monday that that wasn’t possible.”