Australia Controversy continues over 'un-Australian' India travel ban as lawyers prepare to challenge its legality
“It’s a tsunami”: The coronavirus is overwhelming India’s health care system
India set a pandemic record with almost 347,000 new cases in a day.The country reported almost 347,000 new cases over a 24-hour stretch, according to the New York Times, setting a new worldwide high for the third day in a row. Deaths also climbed, to a record 2,624 in a single day, and the rolling seven-day average of daily new cases in India is quickly approaching 300,000.
Assistant Multicultural Affairs Minister Jason Wood has declared most Australians support the federal government's controversial India travel ban, as lawyers prepare to challenge its legality in court.
While some Coalition MPs have labelled the decision to make it illegal for Australians to return from India "extreme" and "heavy-handed", Mr Wood said it was the right approach to take.
"We have to put every measure in place to protect Australians," he told the ABC.
"I have a very big multicultural, Indian community in my electorate and the leaders and others I've spoken to understand the decision that's been made.
How deadly is India's Covid variant and is it REALLY behind crisis?
Doctors on the frontline have blamed the B.1.617 strain for the raging second wave that is killing nearly 3,000 Indians a day. But UK scientists have accused India of being too complacent.Doctors on the frontline claim the B.1.617 strain is responsible for the raging second wave which has sparked hundreds of thousands of new infections each day and left the country with a crippling shortage of oxygen and hospital beds.
"And it's only temporary".
Mr Wood represents the Victorian seat of La Trobe, where after Australia and England, the most common country of birth is India.
The Liberal MP said he had been in contact with India community leaders who understood the government's reasons for the ban.
But Federation of Ethnic Communities of Australia CEO Mohammad Al-Khafaji said that was not the feedback he'd been receiving.
"Our communities are telling us that they've got loved ones stranded in India and they're very distressed," he said.
"It's unprecedented, a clear over-reach of power and it's really unjustifiable."
Travel ban labelled 'un-Australian'
Last week, the government put a temporary ban on flights from India to curb the number of COVID cases ending up in hotel quarantine before it upped the ante on Friday, announcing criminal penalties, including jail terms, for anyone caught breaching the ban.
Flights from India could resume in weeks, PM says
Flights from India to Australia are likely to resume within weeks, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
The move has left an estimated 9,000 Australians stranded in a country in the grip of a humanitarian disaster.
Amid a fierce backlash, the Prime Minister conceded on Tuesday that the likelihood of a prosecution is "pretty much zero" and indicated the ban could be reviewed before it's due to be lifted on May 15.
While voters have been largely supportive of hard-line border policies during COVID, this is the first time, it's believed, that Australia's ever sought to make it illegal for a citizen to return home.
According to Mr Al-Khafaji, it is "un-Australian" and raises questions about the value of Australian citizenship
"We didn't bring in this measure when the outbreak from the US, UK or China happened," he said.
"We're talking about Australian citizens wanting to come back to their country and we're threatening them with a prison sentence and a hefty fine.
"This is un-Australian."
India COVID travel ban shows nation's quarantine system ‘is not working': AMA
The Australian Medical Association and leading infectious diseases experts say opportunities to improve or expand Australia's hotel quarantine system have been missed.The Australian Medical Association and leading infectious diseases experts say the Federal Government's controversial ban on Australians returning home from India under threat of imprisonment is an acknowledgment the nation's hotel quarantine system "is not working".
Challenge to the ban expected
The ban has brought together an unusual alliance of critics, from conservative commentators and cricket stars to doctors and human rights groups.
But when asked if he believed most Australians backed the government, Mr Wood said "absolutely".
He argued if Australia were to experience a COVID outbreak, the government wouldn't be able to send essential supplies to India.
"If we do have another outbreak in Australia, it means the personal protective equipment we're sending to India would potentially not be sent," he said.
"So that's another issue people need to think about who are getting excited about this."
A case challenging the legality of the ban, and the Health Minister's power to impose it, is expected to be lodged in the Federal Court as early as today.
Home Affairs Minister says India COVID travel ban being reviewed daily .
Home Affairs Minister says India COVID travel ban being reviewed daily