Australia has made it illegal to fly home from Covid-ravaged India to a five-year jail term on a $ 66,600 fine.
Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the unprecedented and draconian restriction Saturday morning, starting Monday at 12:01 a.m.
The emergency law, invoked under the Biosecurity Act, could charge anyone who has been in India in the past 14 days with a crime.
This is the first time that the Biosecurity Act has been used to prevent Australian citizens from returning to Australia under threat of imprisonment.
Australians may face unprecedented measures to prevent people from returning from Covid-stricken India, including jail time. Pictured are funeral pyres of coronavirus victims being burned in New Delhi while family members perform final rites in a crematorium
The Covid-19 crisis in India got out of hand this week with a daily mortality of more than 3,000. In this photo, family members wearing PPE are wearing the body of a loved one
It is also the first time in history that the Australian government has used any form of emergency power for that purpose.
Mr. Hunt made the unprecedented decision under the Biosecurity Act after receiving advice from Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly.
“The risk assessment that led to the decision was based on the percentage of quarantined overseas travelers in Australia who contracted a Covid-19 infection in India,” Hunt said.
‘The government does not take these decisions lightly. However, it is critical that the integrity of Australia’s public health and quarantine systems is protected and that the number of Covid-19 cases in quarantine facilities is reduced to manageable levels. ‘
More than 9,000 Australian citizens are believed to be stranded in India.
The huge sentences will last as long as the travel ban on arrivals from India, which will be reviewed on May 15.
Britain, Canada and New Zealand are among other countries that are also banning flights from India in an effort to prevent local infections as the crisis worsens.
A wreath rests on the coffin of a Covid-19 victim prior to the cremation in Jammu, North India. The nation is now in the throes of a Covid-caused humanitarian disaster
A disturbing graph shows India’s significant spike in Covid deaths in recent weeks, with some experts predicting the trend could soon see 30,000 people die every day
Some Australians, including cricketers Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson, took advantage of a loophole to return from India via Doha earlier this week.
That loophole has now been closed, the prime minister confirmed.
Scott Morrison also pledged restrictions to stop the return of Australians from the affected country, while Defense Secretary Peter Dutton said India was facing “a horrific situation.”
On Thursday, 3,498 people in India died from Covid-19, at the end of a horror week that saw an average of more than 3,000 deaths every day.
India’s spiral coronavirus crisis was exposed today when images circulated on social media of the bodies of 22 coronavirus victims who had been put in an overloaded ambulance to be taken to the crematorium.
Indian Covid patients try to rest in a banquet hall in New Delhi that has been requisitioned for makeshift ward
Another 386,452 infections and 3,498 deaths were officially recorded on Friday – but doctors have warned the actual numbers could be ten times higher, bringing daily infections to three million.
At that rate, the country could see more than 30,000 coronavirus deaths per day within a few weeks, but the country’s poor administration means the true toll may never be known.
Indian Premier League cricket team, the Royal Challengers Bangalore players, flew to Mumbai on Monday from their IPL bubble in Chennai, planning to return home via Doha, but Richardson and Zampa were blinded by Australia’s ban on passenger flights from India.
But the relieved couple managed to secure tickets to Doha on Wednesday before securing seats on a chartered flight back to Australia.
Passengers of an Air India flight arriving Thursday in New Jersey, United States. All Indian flights to Australia have been stopped
Australian cricketer Adam Zampa (photo with fiancé Harriet) raced from Doha to Australia this week before slamming borders with India
Zampa and Richardson landed in Australia on Thursday and are in quarantine for 14 days.
About 36,000 Australian nationals abroad are registered with the government to receive assistance to return home.
Mr Hunt said bringing Australians home would be a ‘top priority’, but with the situation in India getting worse, it is believed that this could take months.
He said the national cabinet wanted flights from India to resume ‘as soon as possible’ after the May 15 reassessment date.
The situation will be largely determined by ongoing medical advice and a reduction in the number of coronavirus cases in hotel quarantine.