Australia has officially made it illegal to fly home from Covid-ravaged India – with offenders facing five years in jail and massive fines.
Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed the development, which will be introduced from 12.01am on Monday.
The emergency law, invoked under the Biosecurity Act, could see anyone who has been in India in the past 14 days charged with a crime.
Penalties include up to five years in prison or a $66,000 fine.
The announcement from Health Minister Greg Hunt confirming it is now illegal for Australians to travel home from Covid-ravaged India
Australians could face unprecedented measures to prevent people returning from Covid-stricken India including jail time. Pictured are funeral pyres of coronavirus victims burning in New Delhi as relatives perform last rites at a crematorium
India’s Covid-19 crisis spiked out of control this week with daily deaths exceeding 3,000. In this photo relatives wearing PPE carry the body of a loved one
The announcement marks the first time in history the Australian government has used emergency measures to prevent citizens from returning home.
Hunt made the unprecedented determination under the Biosecurity Act after receiving advice from Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly.
‘The risk assessment that informed the decision was based on the proportion of overseas travellers in quarantine in Australia who have acquired a Covid-19 infection in India,’ the Minister said, according to The Australian.
‘The government does not make these decisions lightly. 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.’
More than 9,000 Australian citizens are believed to be stranded in India.
The report comes as the Australian government hit pause on all flights from the devastated nation, where coronavirus has spiked out of control – unleashing a humanitarian crisis.
The United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand are among other nations to also ban flights from India in an effort to halt infections as the crisis worsens.
Some Australians, including cricketers Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson, reportedly took advantage of a loophole to return from India via Doha earlier this week.
That loophole has since been closed, the Prime Minister confirmed.
Scott Morrison has also promised restrictions to stop the return of Australians from the stricken nation, while Defence Minister Peter Dutton said India was facing ‘a horrific situation’.
A wreath lies on the coffin of a Covid-19 victim prior to cremation in Jammu, northern India. The nation is now in the grips of a Covid-caused humanitarian disaster
A disturbing graph shows the significant spike in Covid deaths in India in recent weeks, with some experts forecasting the trend could soon see 30,000 people dying each day
On Thursday 3,498 people died in India from Covid-19, at the end of a horror week where daily deaths averaged over 3,000.
India’s spiralling coronavirus crisis was today laid bare as images circulated on social media of the bodies of 22 coronavirus victims stuffed into an overloaded ambulance to be taken to the crematorium.
Another 386,452 infections and 3,498 deaths were officially recorded on Friday – but medics have warned the true figures could be ten times greater, putting daily infections at three million.
Indian Covid patients try to rest inside a New Delhi banquet hall requisitioned for a makeshift ward
At that rate the country could see more than 30,000 deaths from coronavirus a day within a few weeks, but the country’s poor record keeping means the true toll may never be known.
Indian Premier League cricket team the Royal Challengers Bangalore players flew to Mumbai from their IPL bubble in Chennai on Monday, planning to return home via Doha but Richardson and Zampa were blindsided by Australia’s ban on passenger flights from India.
But the relieved pair managed to get tickets to Doha on Wednesday before securing seats on a chartered flight back to Australia, The Australian reported.
Passengers from an Air India flight arriving at New Jersey in the United States on Thursday. All Indian flights into Australia have been stopped
Australian cricketer Adam Zampa (pictured with fiancee Harriet) raced home to Australia this week from Doha before the borders with India were slammed shut
Zampa and Richardson will land in Australia on Thursday and undergo 14 days of hotel quarantine.
An estimated around 36,000 Australian citizens overseas are registered with the government to receive assistance returning home.
Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt said bringing Australians home would be a ‘top priority’ – but with the situation in India only getting worse it is believed that could take months.
Flights from India to Australia have been paused until May 15, but Mr Hunt said national cabinet wanted them restarted ‘as soon as possible’ after that date.
The situation will be largely determined by ongoing medical advice and a reduction in the number of coronavirus cases in hotel quarantine.