Australians to face 5-year jail or hefty fine if they return home from India

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 13: A police presence is seen on the steps of the Sydney Town Hall during a protest on June 13, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. The rally was organised to protest against the detention of refugees in Australia. The NSW Supreme Court on Thursday banned the protest following an application by NSW police citing significant COVID-19 health and safety concerns. The ruling to ban the protest, NSW police have the power to arrest and prosecute attendees for breaking a current COVID-19 health order which bans mass gatherings. (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)

Threatening a five-year jail term or hefty fine, the Australian government temporarily barred its citizens from entering the country if they happened to be in India within 14 days of their intended arrival.

The decision was announced after a meeting of the National Cabinet on Friday and will come into force from Monday.

The move aims at keeping the coronavirus spread in check in Australia as India is facing a surge in infections cases.

The decision was based on the proportion of overseas travellers in quarantine in Australia, who have contracted the infection in India, according to Health Minister Greg hunt.

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“Failure to comply with an emergency determination under the Biosecurity Act, 2015, may incur a civil penalty of 300 penalty units, five years’ imprisonment or both,” an official statement from the ministry said.

The decision will be revised on May 15 following advice from the chief medical officer (CMO).

“The CMO will consider the epidemiology in India and likely impacts on Australia’s quarantine capacity, and provide a further expert assessment of the public health risk to Australia to inform a proportionate response,” it said.

The ministry statement said it is important that the integrity of the Australian public health and quarantine system are protected and the number of COVID-19 cases in isolation facilities is reduced to a manageable level.

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The statement also expressed solidarity with India, saying, “Our hearts go out to the people of India and our Indian-Australian community. The friends and families of those in Australia are in extreme risk.”

Australia will also provide to India emergency medical supplies, including over 1,000 non-invasive ventilators.

Apart from that, it has offered to supply a significant number of personal protective equipment (PPE), one million surgical masks, 100,000 surgical gowns, 100,000 goggles, 100,000 pairs of gloves and 20,000 face shields.