Sydney: Australia has banned the return of its citizens and residents from India with offenders facing possible fines and even prison time, government officials have confirmed.
No residents or citizens who have been to India in the 14 days before their return will be allowed into Australia, the emergency notification confirmed on Friday. This is the first time the government has made returning to the country a criminal offense.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has confirmed that the restrictions will come into effect on May 3. "The government does not make these decisions lightly," Hunt 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."
Human rights groups have voiced indignation at the ban, suggesting the government's focus should be on improving its quarantine system, not on punishment.
The decision has left over 9,000 Australians stranded in India, 650 of whom are registered as vulnerable, officials said. India has crossed 200,000 deaths this week with a particularly virulent wave overwhelming the country and horrifying the world.
The US too has imposed travel restrictions, barring most non-US citizens from entering the country.