The Australian government has told its citizens and residents who have been in India within 14 days of the date they plan to return home will be banned from entering as of Monday, and those who disobey will face fines and jail. This is the first time Australia has made returning home a criminal offence. The move comes amid the rapid rise in COVID cases in India, which is now the second most worst-hit country in the aspects of deaths and corona infections. The restrictions will be implemented from May 3.
Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt said that the violations of the ban would result in civil penalties and up to five years in prison. "These were not the decisions 'lightly ' taken by the government. The credibility of Australia's global health and quarantine programs must be safeguarded, and the number of COVID-19 cases in quarantine services must be kept to a minimum. On May 15, the government would rethink the limitations," Hunt said.
According to Neela Janakiramanan, an Australian surgeon with a family in India said the decision to "criminalise" Australians returning from India was disproportionate. She opined that the decision led by the Australian government made her feel 'as a racist policy. According to her, the Australian government treated people from the US and the UK differently compared to Indians, reported NDTV.
The Human Rights Watch's Australia director, Elaine Pearson, said in her statement, calling it an 'outrageous response' The Australians had the right to return to their country. Pearson also said that the government should concentrate on adding safety precautions to safeguard the Australians coming back from India rather than putting harsh punishments on them.
On Tuesday, Australia halted direct flights from India until mid-May. The restrictions had resulted in 9,000 Australians adrift in India. Cricketers like Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson, among others, returned to Australia via Doha. Since closing its doors to non-citizens and permanent residents in March 2020, Australia has almost fully eradicated the coronavirus, with just 29,800 cases and 910 deaths, while this week, India's coronavirus death toll surpassed 2,00,000.