CANBERRA, May 1 (Xinhua) — Australians stuck in India who breach a travel ban to return home could face up to five years in jail, Health Minister Greg Hunt said.
In a statement released on Friday night, Hunt said that from Monday any traveler who enters Australia after being in India within 14 days of their arrival will face criminal charges.
According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) report, it marks the first time in history that Australia has made it a criminal offence for citizens and residents to enter the country, with those caught doing so facing up to five years’ imprisonment, a 66,000-Australian dollar (50,876.2 U.S. dollar) fine or both.
In the statement, Hunt said the radical move was approved by the cabinet on Friday in response to the “unmanageable” number of arrivals from India who have tested positive for COVID-19.
“The government does not make these decisions lightly,” he 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.”
Australia has suspended all direct flights from India until May 15 but the government has expressed concerns over loopholes after people managed to return via Doha.
Hunt said the cabinet is committed to resuming repatriation flights for thousands of Australians stuck in India “as soon as possible” after May 15. Enditem