The government has closed a loophole that allowed those stuck in India to return to Australia via Doha.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison paused all direct flights between Australia and India last week, with the ban expected to last two weeks.
However, according to ABC News, two Aussie cricketers were able to return from India via a Qatar Airways flight which had a stopover in Doha on Thursday afternoon.
The airline told the national broadcaster that at the time, passengers only needed relevant documents and proof of a negative COVID-19 test, taken 48 hours before arrival in Doha.
A spokesperson from Qatar Airways told Travel Weekly the airline no longer sells tickets between Australia and India.
“We can confirm that Qatar Airways does not currently sell tickets from India to Australia via Qatar and we are not carrying passengers on this route,” the spokesperson said.
“We remain in close contact with the relevant Australian authorities to maintain the compliance required with the current restrictions on passenger arrivals from India.”
In an interview with 2GB, the Prime Minister said the government had dealt with the issue.
“We’ve already directly dealt with the airlines in Qatar. And so those transit passengers, the airlines advises, are no longer coming through from Doha,” he said.
“We got the additional information, we took that action and I proposed to take further action today, which would be done under the Biosecurity Act.”
To close the loophole, the government added to the Biosecurity Act on 30 April a ban on those who had been in India within 14 days from entering Australia.
Those who fail to comply with the restriction will be hit with fines of up to $66,600 or five years in prison or both.
India has been reporting more than 300,000 new cases of COVID-19 every day for the past week. The total number of cases in India is now close to 19 million and more than 200,000 people have died.
The ban has copped backlash from many advocacy groups, including the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).
“The travel ban on Australian citizens returning from India, accompanied by criminal sanctions under the Biosecurity Act, raises serious human rights concerns,” AHRC said in a statement.
“The need for such restrictions must be publicly justified. The government must show that these measures are not discriminatory and the only suitable way of dealing with the threat to public health.”
The Universal Society of Hinduism has also condemned the announcement, labelling it “barbaric”.
The organisation’s president, Rajan Zed, has urged the Australian government to “show some maturity and immediately withdraw this questionable and irresponsible decree”.
Zed said the ban appeared to make some Australian citizens “stateless” and said Morrison and Health Minister Greg Hunt should issue a formal apology.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has defended the “drastic” measures.
“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.
“The situation in India is dire. It is very serious.”
Following consultation with the Indian government, Australia has agreed to provide emergency medical supplies, with the initial package including more than 1,000 non-invasive ventilators and the capacity to deploy up to a total of 3,000 ventilators.
The government has offered to supply a significant package of personal protective equipment (PPE), including one million surgical masks, 500,000 P2/N95 masks, 100,000 surgical gowns, 100,000 goggles, 100,000 pairs of gloves and 20,000 face shields.
Featured image source: YouTube/ABC News