Treasurer defends ban on Australians returning from Covid-ravaged India

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has defended the unprecedented ban on Australians returning from Covid-ravaged India despite the move being blasted as 'horrifying' and 'outrageous'. 

The Federal Government made made it illegal to fly home from India under threat of five years in jail and fines of $66,600.

Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the draconian restriction on Saturday morning, which will begin at 12.01am on Monday.

Mr Frydenberg stood by the the government's decision, saying Prime Minister Scott Morrison has acted on medical advice.

'We have taken drastic action to keep Australians safe, and what we face in India is a very serious situation where the medical advice provided to the federal government has been to put in place these strict measures,' he said on Sunday.

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Mr Frydenberg on stood by the the government's decision, saying Prime Minister Scott Morrison has acted on medical advice to keep Australians safe

Mr Frydenberg on stood by the the government's decision, saying Prime Minister Scott Morrison has acted on medical advice to keep Australians safe 

A crane places new biers in a disused granite quarry repurposed to cremate the dead due to COVID-19 in Bengaluru, India

A crane places new biers in a disused granite quarry repurposed to cremate the dead due to COVID-19 in Bengaluru, India

Critical patients receive free oxygen amid rise in coronavirus cases across the country in Ghaziabad at Uttar Pradesh, India

Critical patients receive free oxygen amid rise in coronavirus cases across the country in Ghaziabad at Uttar Pradesh, India

This is the first time the Biosecurity Act has been used to stop Australians citizens returning to Australia under threat of jail

This is the first time the Biosecurity Act has been used to stop Australians citizens returning to Australia under threat of jail

Asked if it was irresponsible then to leave Australians there and effectively lock them out of their own country, Mr Frydenberg said the measure was drastic but temporary.

'The best thing we can do is get supplies into India, which is what we're doing - ventilators, masks, other PPE equipment,' he told reporters.

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'We're doing everything we can to support India at this very difficult time (but) we've also got to protect Australians.'

The emergency law, invoked under the Biosecurity Act, could see anyone who has been in India in the past 14 days charged with a crime. 

This is the first time the Biosecurity Act has been used to stop Australians citizens returning to Australia under threat of jail.

It is also the first time in history the Australian Government has used any kind of emergency powers for that purpose.

Mr Hunt made the unprecedented determination under the Biosecurity Act after receiving advice from Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly.

More than 9000 Australians in India are registered as wanting to return, including 650 registered as vulnerable. Pictured: Dwarka crematorium in India

More than 9000 Australians in India are registered as wanting to return, including 650 registered as vulnerable. Pictured: Dwarka crematorium in India

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

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

'The risk assessment that informed the decision was based on the proportion of overseas travellers in quarantine in Australia who have acquired a Covid-19 infection in India,' Mr Hunt said.

'The government does not make these decisions lightly. 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.'

More than 9000 Australians in India are registered as wanting to return, including 650 registered as vulnerable.

The decision is based on the number of positive cases from India detected in the country's quarantine facilities, Mr Hunt says. More than 150 overseas-acquired infections have been reported Australia-wide in the past week, many from India.

The massive penalties will last as long as the travel ban on arrivals from India, which will be reassessed on May 15.

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