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Australians returning home from India could be hit with a £37,000 ($66,000) fine and face five years in prison.
From Monday (3 May), the route will be banned in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus into the country, leaving around 9,000 people locked out.
The ban applies to anyone who has visited India within 14 days of their arrival date in Australia.
It comes as India recorded more than 400,000 new cases of the deadly virus in the past 24 hours, with 3,498 people having sadly died.
The Australian Health Ministry said the controversial decision was 'based on the proportion of people in quarantine who have acquired a Covid-19 infection in India'.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says while the ban has been criticised it is designed to protect the country and its citizens from an outbreak of coronavirus and the spread of further strains.
He said: "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."
Announcing the measure, Health Minister Greg Hunt said it wasn't easy.
"The Government does not make these decisions lightly," he said.
"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."
But while opposition MP Jason Clare said he agrees with the decision to ban travel between the two countries, he thinks the criminal element is a step too far.
He said: "I think it would be a big call, though, to make it a crime for Australians trying to get home.
"I think what we should be doing is trying to make it easier for people to get home."
These concerns were echoed by GP Vyom Sharma, who said it was unfair.
Speaking to ABC News, the Melbourne-based doctor said: "It is incredibly disproportionate to the threat that is posed.
"Of course, different people can have different assessments of risk, and I guess my concern is that the government is so sensitive to the risk that they can't take in this increased load of people coming in."
Dr Sharma went on to criticise the differing approach to travel restrictions being introduced now to the approach taken to Europe and America.
He said: "What strikes me as also bizarre is that USA back in January was returning to us Australians, in much higher quantities of people, who were testing positive and yet there was no talk of plan banning those flights then.
"Why is it that India has copped this ban and not people who have come from America?
"Our families are quite literally dying in India overseas."
Featured Image Credit: PA
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