Covid: Australians could face jail or fines if they return from India

The restrictions come into effect from May 3 and breaching the ban risks civil penalties and up to five years imprisonment Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement

On Saturday morning, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced a "temporary pause" on travellers who have visited India within 14 days of their intended arrival date in Australia.

Britain, Canada, and New Zealand are among other nations to also ban flights from India in an effort to prevent local infections as the crisis worsens. "Tragically, many are contracting COVID-19 and many, sadly, are dying every day", Hunt said.

Mr Hunt said bringing Australians home would be a "top priority" - but with the situation in India only getting worse it is believed that could take months.

Neela Janakiramanan, an Australian surgeon with family in India said the decision to "criminalise" Australians returning from India was disproportionate and overly punitive.

"The government does not make these decisions lightly", Hunt said".

National cabinet instead "noted" Professor Kelly's assessment that India is the first country to meet the threshold of a high risk country.

India registered 386,452 new coronavirus cases on Friday, yet another global record high for infections in a single day.

Australians could face unprecedented measures to prevent people returning from Covid-stricken India including jail time.

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"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 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.

India's Covid-19 crisis spiked out of control this week with daily deaths exceeding 3,000. The decision was taken after two Australian cricketers, Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson, who left the Indian Premier League midway, took a Qatar Airways flight on Thursday afternoon to return to Australia.

Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe said Kenya had "observed the dire events in India. and resolved to suspend all passenger flights in and out of the country for a period of 14 days".

India recorded 360,960 new infections in the last 24 hours, the largest in a single day taking the country's tally of infections to almost 18 million. Almost 9,000 Australians are now stranded in India, according to ABC News.

"National cabinet expressed solidarity with the Indian community both within Australia and overseas", Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement yesterday, not fronting the media after the meeting.

More than 200,000 people have died of Covid-19 in India.

Apart from that, it has offered to supply a significant number of personal protective equipment (PPE), one million surgical masks, 100,000 surgical gowns, 100,000 goggles, 100,000 pairs of gloves and 20,000 face shields.

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