Australians wanting to fly home from India will face five years jail time and massive fines under new criminal offence laws that come into effect on Monday.
Returning citizens who have been in India in the past two weeks will be threatened with the prison sentence, the first law in Australia’s history making it illegal for citizens to return home.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said late on Friday night the measure was proportionate to the escalating COVID-19 threat on the subcontinent.
“The government does not make these decisions lightly,” he said.
“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 penalty would be five years in jail, a $66,000 fine, or both.
The laws come into effect at 12.01am on Monday and will be reviewed on May 15.
India is experiencing the world’s worst COVID-19 outbreak. The nation recorded more that 386,000 cases on Friday, the biggest single-day increase in any country since the pandemic began.
Australia has paused all direct flights from India for at least three weeks, fuelled by a rise in the number of positive cases linked to recent repatriation flights from the country…