Australia makes travelling from India a criminal offence as Covid cases surge

1 May 2021, 10:58 | Updated: 1 May 2021, 11:05

A vaccination queue at Barasat state General hospital in India
A vaccination queue at Barasat state General hospital in India. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Authorities in Australia have made returning home from India a criminal offence as the country battles a devastating surge in coronavirus infections and deaths.

Australian citizens could now face up to five years in jail and fines the journey was made temporarily illegal.

Anyone who has been in India within 14 days of their intended arrival date in Australia will be banned from entering. The rule comes into effect from Monday.

READ MORE: Hospitals overrun as India records world's highest daily Covid cases

Breaking the rule could carry a five-year jail term, a fine of up to A$66,000 (£37,000), or both. The rule will be in place until May 15, Australian officials said.

It is understood to be the first time Australia has banned its own citizens from returning with criminal penalties in place.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said:"The government does 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."

All flights from India were banned earlier in the week. It means as many as 9,000 Australians will be unable to leave India during the Covid-19 crisis there.

Australia has taken strict measures to tackle the virus throughout the entire pandemic and as a result has had dramatically low cases compared to other countries from as far back as last September.

India's coronavirus cases climbed again in figures released yesterday. The country reported 386,452 new cases, and has now has reported more than 18.7 million since the pandemic began, second only to the United States.

The army has opened up its hospitals in a desperate bid to control the massive humanitarian crisis created by an acute shortage of beds, medicines and oxygen.

India's Health Ministry also reported 3,498 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 208,330.

Experts believe both figures are an undercount, but it is unclear by how much.