Australian citizens in virus-stricken India could face hefty fines up to $66,000 and even jail time if they try to return home.

The penalties are being invoked under the Biosecurity Act to stop people coming here from India via other countries such as Singapore or the United Arab Emirates.

Health Minister Greg Hunt.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has confirmed Australian citizens in virus-stricken India could face hefty fines up to $66,000 and even jail time if they try to return home. (Chris Hopkins)

Mr Hunt today confirmed the new measures will take effect from Monday.

“The pause will come into effect at 12.01am on Monday, May 3, 2021,” he said.

“The risk assessment that informed the decision was based on the proportion of overseas travellers in quarantine in Australia who have acquired a COVID-19 infection in India.

“Failure to comply with an emergency determination under the Biosecurity Act 2015 may incur a civil penalty of 300 penalty units, five years’ imprisonment, or both.”

The act empowers Mr Hunt to do whatever is necessary to stop the spread of a listed disease. Penalties include five years jail or a $66,000 fine.

“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.”

The Federal Government is worried that arrivals from India are putting Australia’s strict quarantine system at risk. (AP)

The move was prompted after two people circumvented travel bans from India, returning to Australia via Doha in a loophole that has since been closed.

With over 9000 Australians in India, the Federal Government has indicated they will restart repatriation flights as soon as they can, but with coronavirus rampant in India, that could be months away.

“We have to be able to continue to do two things – protect Australia and bring Australians home,” Mr Hunt said earlier this week.

Mr Hunt has said Australians left stranded in India by the federal government’s flight ban are a “top priority”.
The Federal Government said it wants flights from India to resume as soon as possible. (AP)

Australia’s travel suspension with India, announced earlier this week, had temporarily ended all direct flights from the coronavirus-ravaged nation.

The ban will remain in place until at least May 15 – after which, Mr Hunt said, the aim was to resume repatriation and commercial flights as soon as possible.

The pause on flights had “lifted pressure” on the quarantine system, Mr Hunt said.

This content first appear on 9news

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