The risk of keeping Australians in India is greater than the risk of bringing them home, a top doctor in the country has warned.
Omar Khorshid, president of the Australian Medical Association, has called on the government to commit to repatriating Australians in India once the current travel ban lapses.
Dr. Khorshid said “The pause in flights from India to Australia was warranted to manage the risk of a growing number of infected people entering our fragile hotel quarantine system.
“However, in light of the significant increase in infections in India, expatriate Australians are now facing health risks that require a health response from the Australian Government.”
Dr. Khorshid called for the order to “withdraw immediately” the jail or fine Australians trying to get home from India to Australia.
“The rapid growth of the COVID-19 community in India has led Australians to face unavoidable illnesses and deaths due to poor access to vaccines, poor access to healthcare and travel bans in Australia,” he added.
“The medical profession is concerned about the imprisonment or fine of those who may violate the current sanctions at a time when Australia is indeed helping to repatriate Australians so as not to impose further burdens on their poor health care system.”
Preparations for alternatives to the current hotel quarantine system need to start now, he said.
Dr. Khorshid described the hotel quarantine as “imperfect”.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, however, has denied raising the ban on people coming to Australia from India.
Speaking as the chief guest at a press conference in Rockhampton, the prime minister said the suspension would remain in force until May 15 as planned.
“We need that time,” he said.
“We saw arrive on the last flight. One of those eight arrivals who arrived had Covid-19.”
Mr. Morrison said Australia could not be complacent about the epidemic.