In a step to strengthen the travel ban from India, which battling a lethal second wave of COVID-19, and prevent the outbreak from spreading, Australia has threatened a five-year jail term or a hefty fine for the people returning from India.
Any person, who has been in India for the past 14 days, entering Australia could face fines and jail time, which adds to the temporary travel ban, announced earlier this week, imposed till May 15.
This comes after travellers on indirect flights from India exposed a loophole in the Australian government's travel ban.
"The government does not make these decisions lightly," Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement.
"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."
The announcement for a possible jail term for breaching the travel ban is first in such nature and it has labelled as "outrageous" by Human Rights Watch. The rights agency said that the Australian government should look for ways to safely quarantine people returning from India, "instead of focusing their efforts on prison sentences and harsh punishments."
The announcement comes as India continues to witness the highest daily single-day spike, as on Friday one-day cases climbed 385,000, a new global record. Almost 3,500 people died across India in the past 24 hours, according to official data that many experts suspect falls short of the true toll.
Australia closed its international borders to most non-citizens in March 2020, and those allowed to travel must spend 14 days in quarantine hotels on their return.