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What exactly are the rules surrounding Australians returning home from India?

Aussies could face hefty fines and jail time for returning home from India, under strict new travel restrictions.

On Saturday, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced a "temporary pause" on travellers who have been in India within 14 days of their arrival date into Australia. 

The temporary travel ban will come into effect on Monday and will be reviewed on May 15.

Under the Biosecurity Act, those who breach the ban could receive the maximum penalty of a five-year jail sentence or a $66,000 fine.

"The government does not make these decisions lightly," Hunt said.

"However, it is critical that 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."

About 9,000 Australians are currently estimated to be in India.

What has been said about the India travel ban? 

Following the announcement, Human Rights Watch has hit back at the government's decision, labelling it an "outrageous response".

Elaine Pearson, the Australia director at Human Rights Watch, said "Australians have a right to return to their own country".

"The government should be looking for ways to safely quarantine Australians returning from India, instead of focusing their efforts on prison sentences and harsh punishments for people who are facing desperate conditions and simply trying to return home," Pearson said in a statement shared on Twitter. 

Meanwhile, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has defended the ban, saying that the "drastic" move is designed "to keep Australians safe". 

"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 Saturday. 

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"With respect to India and the decision we have taken recently with the Biosecurity Act — the situation in India is dire."

“It’s very serious. More than 200,000 people have died, and there are more than 300,000 new cases a day."

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India's current COVID-19 crisis. 

India continues to face a record-breaking surge in COVID-19 infections, with the country's under-funded hospitals overwhelmed by a devastating second wave.

On Saturday, India become the first country to record 400,000 new cases in a day since the pandemic began. 

The country registered 401,993 new cases, after 10 consecutive days of more than 300,000 new daily cases.

The new cases bring India's total number of known infections to over 19 million and death toll to over 200,00 since the pandemic began. 

Crematoriums across Delhi have announced they are full and have asked grieving families to wait. Some families are being forced to keep dead bodies in their home, while they wait to find a crematorium. 

Across the country, mass cremations for victims of COVID-19 are now taking place. 

The lockdown in Delhi has been extended for a second time and is set to continue for another week until at least May 10.

If you’re in Australia, and would like to help India, here are just a few of the places you can donate to: 

  • Care India: This nonprofit organisation has 70 years' experience in providing relief to communities during disasters in India. They are currently working to provide PPE kits to existing care facilities in India and to set up temporary COVID hospitals. You can donate here. 
  • Ketto: This is a fundraising platform based in Mumbai, where a campaign is being promoted to get immediate access to oxygen concentrators across India. You can donate here. 
  • Youth Feed India and Helping Hands Charitable Trust: This fundraising platform is raising money to deliver rations to vulnerable residents of Mumbai. Their kits will feed a family of four for 15 days. Their aim is to ensure "no Mumbaikar goes to bed hungry". You can donate here. 

Feature Image: Getty.

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