Australian COVID-19 travel restrictions challenged in court

Australian COVID-19 travel restrictions challenged in court

Australia's main medical association on Tuesday said the government should immediately reverse its "mean-spirited" order and put in place a plan to ensure the safe return of Australians from India.

Australia's top doctor has warned the India travel ban must not be extended or citizens trapped in the country's Covid nightmare will die.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday stood firm on his decision to halt flights from India in a bid to curb the COVID-19 infections and a possible third wave of the deadly contagion, saying positive cases have started to come down as a result of the pause.

The government hopes to maintain Australia's relatively low levels of community transmission of the virus by preventing its citizens from becoming infected overseas and bringing variants home.

Morrison on Tuesday said it was "highly unlikely" that travellers from India would face the maximum penalties of five years jail and a A$66,000 fine for breaking border rules as he faces pressure to overturn them.

In a move to safeguard its population, Australia has made travel ban on those travelling from India stricter.

Repatriation flights from India may resume as planned by May 15, Morrison said, as the government looks to more than double the capacity in a quarantine facility in the country's Northern Territory by the middle of this month. "How about you sort out quarantine system", Slater said in a tweet.

With nearly one third of Australians born overseas and most barred from leaving the country for more than a year, a win by LibertyWorks is likely to lead to a surge in citizens wishing to travel internationally.

Mr Morrison said humanitarian support which includes oxygen containers, masks and respirators had already left Sydney and was now on its way to India.

"I think the likelihood of any of that occurring is pretty much zero", Morrison said in a breakfast-time media blitz on Tuesday.

"The sanctions are there, they exist but they will be exercised proportionately and responsibly", he said.

In all, about a dozen Australian cricketers are still in India playing in the IPL, including the likes of superstars Cummins, Steve Smith, David Warner, Glenn Maxwell and Lynn - who are all on big-money contracts.

Australia now has a biosecurity act in place which means anyone who breaches travel rules by returning from coronavirus-affected India could be jailed or fined.

"Such unprecedented measures and announcements are likely to have a serious impact on the Australian-Indian community as well as bilateral business and trade", it said.

Former Australia cricket player Michael Slater, who was working in India as a commentator for the Indian Premier League, lambasted the Australian government for the travel ban.

It urged the Morrison government to take a pragmatic approach considering the sensitivities involved, and balancing health and economy, and more importantly the goodwill with Indians and with India.

But the India travel ban and a glacial vaccine rollout have prompted criticism.

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