Australians Arriving From Covid-Hit India Could Face 5 Years' Jail, Fine

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

Australia on Tuesday announced a temporary ban on direct passenger flights from India following a massive surge in coronavirus infections.

Morrison said the suspension would provide a "breather" to quarantine facilities in New South Wales state and the Northern Territory, given the majority of positive cases there came from India. "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", Mr Hunt said.

The decision will be revised on May 15 following advice from the chief medical officer (CMO).

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", Mr 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's coronavirus death toll neared the bleak milestone of 200,000 with another 2,771 fatalities reported on Tuesday, while its armed forces pledged urgent medical aid to help battle the staggering spike in infections.

Returning residents and citizens have to undergo a mandatory two-week hotel quarantine at their own expense, a system that has largely helped Australia to keep its COVID-19 numbers relatively low, with just under 29,700 cases and 910 deaths.

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, an official statement from the ministry said.

The Australian government will reconsider the restrictions on May 15, he said.

"Whilst there's some very high-profile people in India who are getting some publicity, there's also Australian citizens who are doing it really tough", he told reporters in Sydney.

India is reporting hundreds of thousands of Covid cases a day.

However, some Australians, including cricketers Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson, returned via Doha.

Scott Morrison also promised restrictions to stop the return of Australians from the stricken nation, while Defence Minister Peter Dutton said India was facing "a horrific situation".

India set another world record on Thursday with more than 379,000 new cases and 3645 deaths.

Another 386,452 infections and 3,498 deaths were officially recorded on Friday - but medics have warned the true figures could be ten times greater, putting daily infections at three million.

Australia is sending over ventilators, a "significant" supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and oxygen concentrators.