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Australia defends decision to penalize its citizens returning from COVID-ravaged India

20 Comments
By Swati Pandey

Australia on Monday defended its decision to penalize its own citizens entering the country within two weeks of being in COVID-ravaged India, saying it had "strong, clear and absolute" belief the move was legal.

Health Minister Greg Hunt pointed to the alarming surge of coronavirus cases in India and the pressure on Australia's health system as reasons to pause travel until May 15.

Australia's quarantine hotels have seen a 1,500% spike in COVID-19 cases from India since March, raising questions about pre-departure testing in India and leading to this "agonizing decision," Hunt said.

"It's a high-risk situation in India," Hunt told a televised news briefing in Melbourne.

"The strong, clear view is that there has been no doubt in any of the Commonwealth advice about this measure or other measures," he said, referring to Australia's emergency biosecurity decision, which took effect on Monday.

Earlier, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told 2GB radio the ban would be in place for as long as it is needed.

The Australian Human Rights Commission lambasted the decision, urging lawmakers to immediately review the restrictions. The Commission will approach the government directly with its concerns, it said in a statement.

The hashtag #DictatorScott was trending on Twitter on Monday as Australians reacted to the strict new policy.

"We should be helping Aussies in India return home not jailing them. Let's fix our quarantine system rather than leave our fellow Australians stranded," Nationals senator Matthew Canavan tweeted.

Australia, which has largely contained the novel coronavirus, closed its borders to non-citizens in March 2020.

Returning residents and citizens must undergo a mandatory two-week hotel quarantine at their own expense. Australia has seen 22,245 cases of community transmission and 910 deaths through the pandemic.

Roughly a quarter of the 35,000 Australians stranded overseas are in India, which reported close to 400,000 cases on Friday and more than 200,000 total deaths. Australia clocked zero cases of community transmission on Monday.

Western Australia reported three cases over the weekend after a quarantine hotel security guard and two house-mates tested positive for COVID-19. The state reported zero local cases on Monday.

The country's vaccination program has moved slowly, administering just over 2 million doses so far, well short of initial government forecasts of 4 million by the end of March.

At its current pace, Australia's adult population will likely be fully vaccinated by August 2023, according to projections by the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

The government has cited a global COVID-19 vaccine shortage and health concerns around the AstraZeneca shot, on which Australia's immunization program was based. Australia has imposed age restrictions on the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Over the weekend, the Telegraph reported that Britain secretly allowed AstraZeneca to use its UK supply chain to produce vaccines for key ally Australia in return for access to 10 millions doses from India.

Britain received 5 million of the Indian shots in March, though export of the remainder now looks increasingly unlikely with India battling with a sinister fresh wave amid tight supplies.

© Thomson Reuters 2021.

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

20 Comments
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Were they vaccinated before they went?

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

How long before everyone from any country is slapped with a fine or cart you off to the slammer. Democratic?

-8 ( +6 / -14 )

Just set up a strict quarantine-its just science...

0 ( +5 / -5 )

14 Australian cricketers, 2 coaches and 4 commentators are now stuck in India till the end of IPL and maybe beyond. Difficult situation for them, feel sorry for these 'poor' cricketers but then, the millions they earn would more than make up for it.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

the millions they earn would more than make up for it.

It’ll buy them one expensive funeral pyre

3 ( +5 / -2 )

You've got to wonder, why on earth were they in India in the first place. The second wave had already started by early April.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I am baffled by what opponents of this move want. "Let's fix our quarantine system rather than leave our fellow Australians stranded..."

That's a sound bite or a tweet. What's a realistic policy that will protect the rest of the Australian population? Frankly speaking, I cannot think of anything other than assuming they have been exposed and quarantining them for 10+ days and testing them regularly.

Maybe the complaint stems from these people having to quarantine in a hotel at their own expense?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"We should be helping Aussies in India return home not jailing them. Let's fix our quarantine system rather than leave our fellow Australians stranded," Nationals senator Matthew Canavan tweeted.

Keeping coronavirus out is the priority now. Aren't there islands off the mainland where they can let these people come for a few weeks ?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Pandemic or not, the right of every citizen to re-enter their country should be inviolable. There are plenty of draconian quarantine measures that could have been implemented on arrival instead.

You've got to wonder, why on earth were they in India in the first place. The second wave had already started by early April.

According to the Australian government there are 9000 Australian citizens living in India.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Roughly a quarter of the 35,000 Australians stranded overseas are in India, which reported close to 400,000 cases on Friday and more than 200,000 total deaths.

Well there were also approx 300,000 recoveries on Friday, this part is subtly omitted.. the standard disinformation narrative..this reporter fits the self loathing apologist types..

Australia clocked zero cases of community transmission on Monday.

Australia's quarantine hotels have seen a 1,500% spike in COVID-19 cases from India since March

That's a disconnect right there, so it is fair to assume that 1,500% spike all recovered, now that is good news..

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Keeping coronavirus out is the priority now. Aren't there islands off the mainland where they can let these people come for a few weeks ?

Those islands are for the illegal immigrants.. and given the Australian treatment of illegal immigrants is far far worse compared to say the US..last the the citizens want is to land up on those islands.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Never had that policy when hundreds of thousands were infected and dying in Europe. I wonder why

1 ( +3 / -2 )

It’s sad that when a citizen is stuck overseas in a dire situation their own government disowns and wants nothing to do with them. Given proper protocols following “the science” it is not too difficult to safely repatriate their fellow citizens. Shame on you Australian government.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Roughly a quarter of the 35,000 Australians stranded overseas are in India, which reported close to 400,000 cases on Friday and more than 200,000 total deaths.

The 35,000 figure is just the number of citizens actively trying to get back to OZ. The actual number of citizens overseas is much higher. And the number isn't going down, the miniscule quota that are being let back in barely enough to offset the people newly trying to repatriate.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

14 Australian cricketers, 2 coaches and 4 commentators are now stuck in India till the end of IPL and maybe beyond. Difficult situation for them, feel sorry for these 'poor' cricketers but then, the millions they earn would more than make up for it.

Sigh. There are according to the article some 35,000 Australians living abroad and a quarter of those live in India. A little simple arithmetic tells you that somewhere in the neighborhood of 8000 to 9000 Australians live in India. They are not all highly paid cricket players! They are business people employed by big multi national corporations, probably an Australian staff for Quantas at various major airports, staff from companies importing and exporting goods between India and Australia, etc. I would be curious to know if this new law applies to Australian diplomats and their families posted to the Australian embassy and consulates in India?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"They are business people employed by big multi national corporations, probably an Australian staff for Quantas at various major airports, staff from companies importing and exporting goods between India and Australia, etc. I would be curious to know if this new law applies to Australian diplomats and their families posted to the Australian embassy and consulates in India?"

Most probably the major number out of these 8000 to 9000 would be 'brown' Australians who are now back in India working from home and looking after their families. They will go back to Australia after the travel restrictions end but only after they have cremated the dead and the departed.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

only white man country can do this without being labelled as "human right abuses" or "genocide"

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

@mrtinjp

There’s a difference in cases that are in quarantine and community transmission. Due to many recent arrivals from India the cases in quarantine have spiked. Cases recorded in the general community are low to non existent.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

only white man country can do this without being labelled as "human right abuses" or "genocide"

I don’t know about that. When the Left is out of power they will readily use the race card to take down the opposition - even if it means branding their own nation racist.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Heartless scumbags. Japan would never do such things to her citizens

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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