For the first time in history, the Australian government could make it illegal for Australian citizens in other countries to return home.
The federal government is considering invoking sweeping power under the Biosecurity Act, which means it will start at midnight tomorrow, it would be a crime for anyone to return to Australia if they had been in a high-risk country 14 days prior to arriving.
The law empowers Health Minister Greg Hunt to do whatever it takes to stop the spread of a listed disease.
The fines include five years in prison or a $66,000 fine.
The move comes just days after a two-man travel ban from India came into effect, returning to Australia via Doha in a loophole that has since been closed.
With more than 9,000 Australians in India, the federal government has indicated they will resume repatriation flights as soon as possible, but it could take months for coronavirus massive outbreak in India.
“We need to be able to continue with two things – to protect Australia and to bring Australians back to the country,” said Health Minister Greg Hunt.
Mr. Hunt said Australians stranded in India as a result of the federal government’s air embargo are a “top priority”.
Australia’s travel suspension with India, announced earlier this week, has temporarily suspended all direct flights from the coronavirus-ravaged country.
The ban will be in place until at least May 15 – after which Mr. Hunt said the aim was to repatriate and resume commercial flights as soon as possible.
Mr. Hunt said that the pause on flights had “increased pressures” on the quarantine system.
And it opens up the possibility of rebuilding as soon as possible, subject to the decision of the National Cabinet,” he said.
Vulnerable Australians will be at the top of this list.
Earlier today, the federal government shut down a travel loophole.
Two Australian cricketers stranded in India arrived in the Qatari capital Doha yesterday after a tour.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressed the issue this morning while talking to Ben Fordham at 2GB.
Mr. Morrison said: “We will take further action about that loophole”
With more than a million new cases in the last three days, India is fighting for a record number of Covid-19 in the country.