Australia Home Affairs Minister says India COVID travel ban being reviewed daily

04:26  05 may  2021
04:26  05 may  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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Karen Andrews says she understands people's concerns, but that the ban is an © AAP Karen Andrews says she understands people's concerns, but that the ban is an "appropriate measure" given the rates of COVID-19 in travellers arriving from India.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews says the government is reviewing the temporary travel ban to India "every single day".

The government has come under sustained criticism for implementing the ban, which — for the first time ever — has made it a criminal offence for citizens and permanent residents to return to Australia if they have been in India in the last 14 days.

The temporary ban is due to end on May 15, with the Prime Minister and other senior government ministers saying it is to give quarantine facilities like Howard Springs time for the high number of positive cases to come down.

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Ms Andrews said she understood people's concerns, but that the ban was an "appropriate measure" given the rates of COVID-19 in travellers arriving from India.

"These are temporary measures, we will be reviewing them," she said.

"Quite frankly, they're being looked at every single day as we look at what the options are to support the Indian community here in Australia and to do our best for all Australians.

"We look at every aspect of this situation every single day."

One of the issues flagged by Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly was that there needed to be an improvement in the pre-flight testing system.

All travellers are required to present a negative COVID-19 test before they board a repatriation or commercial flight.

But despite that, people were returning from India and testing positive for the disease.

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Health authorities and the government have said Howard Springs' infection rate reached 15 per cent, seven times higher than the goal of 2 per cent.

Ms Andrews said as well as improving testing systems, one of the other avenues the government was considering was how to deal with travellers from India who were vaccinated.

"How we're going to know who has been vaccinated, which vaccination they have had, which countries they have come from, whether it will be hotel quarantine when they get here, whether it will be home quarantine — those are all the issues that are being discussed across government," she said.

'Nobody's going to be jailed'

Unlike some of the other travel bans the government has enforced since the beginning of the pandemic — from China and most recently from Papua New Guinea — travelling from India carries with it the threat of five years in jail or a $66,000 fine.

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Despite putting out a release late last Friday making clear the potential consequences, senior government ministers including the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister have now walked back the idea that anyone would face the sanctions.

"Obviously there needs to be a hard line taken as far as the overall [Biosecurity] Act being in place, but nobody's going to be jailed at this time, the Prime Minister's made that quite clear," Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said.

The federal opposition has questioned why, if there was no plan to enforce the sanctions, they were introduced and publicised by the government.

Yesterday, Scott Morrison said it was unlikely anyone would be charged for breaching the ban, and that he expected it to be implemented "proportionately".

The ban was introduced under the Biosecurity Act, in a determination made by Health Minister Greg Hunt.

In March last year, the Governor-General declared a "human biosecurity emergency" in response to the emerging pandemic, which gave the health minister and government the power to make such emergency determinations to try to keep COVID-19 out of Australia.

But any kind of new rule or offence must abide by certain criteria, including that it is "no more restrictive or intrusive" than it needs to be, and that it is only in place for as long as it is necessary.

Lawyers are preparing to challenge the legality of the ban in court.

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Michael Slater SLAMS Scott Morrison over India ban .
Australian cricket legend Michael Slater managed to escape to the Maldives and now must wait the designated two weeks to return to Australia. But Slater's criticism of the Prime Minister has been met with furor, with many Australians saying he and his teammates chose to travel to India on their own accord.'So Michael Slater goes into a war zone to chase money. Now when it has gotten out of control, it's the Australian Government's fault?' one Twitter user wrote.

usr: 1
This is interesting!