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Australians could face R950K fine or jail time if they return from Covid-hit India

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There are an estimated 9,000 Australians in India, 600 of whom are classed as vulnerable.

Patients suffering from the coronavirus receive treatment inside the emergency ward at Holy Family hospital in New Delhi, India. Picture: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

THE AUSTRALIAN government will impose fines of up to $66,000 (about R950,000) or five years’ jail time to citizens who try to fly back from India amid a devastating surge in Covid-19 cases, according to reports on Saturday.

The Guardian UK reported that the restrictions will come into effect from May 3 until May 15.

Anyone who has been in India within 14 days of their intended arrival date in Australia will be banned from entering the country.

The restrictions are aimed at combating the spread of Covid-19, which has engulfed the world’s second most populous nation with soaring cases and deaths, according to the report.

The Guardian reported that two Australian cricketers – who had been in India returned home on Thursday after transiting through Qatar – after the government earlier in the week banned all direct flights from India.

India is experiencing a devastating second wave of the pandemic, with over 19.1 million infections and 211,853 deaths.

The BBC reported that the Australian Health Minister, Greg Hunt, said his government did 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,’’ Hunt was quoted saying.

Australia has been successful in making sure the country had low infections rates and has fewer fatalities than most countries.

The strict lockdown policies has left many Australians stranded overseas.

Doctor and health commentator, Vyom Sharmer, told ABC News that the government’s move was disproportionate to the threat posed by those returning from India.

“Our families are quite literally dying in India overseas … to have absolutely no way of getting them out – this is abandonment,” Sharmer was quoted saying.

Meanwhile, Neela Janakiramanan, an Australian surgeon with family in India, told Metro UK News that the decision to criminalise Australians returning from India was racist.

“Indian-Australians are seeing this as a racist policy because we are being treated differently than people from other countries who have had similar waves of infection like the US, the UK and Europe,’’ he was quoted saying

“It is very hard to feel anything other than targeted as an ethnic group.’’

– African News Agency (ANA)

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