Should cricket be banned in India
With the threat of draconian penalties, the Australian government wants to prevent its own citizens from returning to their homeland from India, which has been badly shaken by the Covid pandemic. Anyone who tries to do so from Monday onwards should, according to a new regulation, be sentenced to up to five years in prison and the equivalent of a fine of 42,000 euros. "We decided to take this drastic measure to protect Australians," Treasury Secretary Josh Frydenberg defended the controversial rules on Saturday against sharp criticism from the opposition, human rights organizations and medical associations. The ban will initially apply until mid-May.
Human rights activists rate the entry ban as racist and a violation of basic human rights. Threatening jail sentences to harsh prison sentences is a "horrific reaction," said Elaine Pearson, Australian director of human rights organization Human Rights Watch. Australia's Human Rights Commission, which has the legal mandate to monitor compliance with fundamental rights, expressed "serious concerns": the government must prove "that the measures are not discriminatory".
Indian-born doctor and health journalist Vyom Sharma says it is "hard to imagine" that the government would have taken "such strange measures" when it came to returnees from the US or the UK. "At the moment of your greatest desperation, if you seek refuge, we threaten you with five years in prison," he told the news portal The Guardian, "this is really disgusting."
9,000 Australians are in India
In fact, the plan to forbid its own citizens to return home as a punishment is unique in the world. Other countries such as the USA and Germany have also issued extensive entry bans for travelers from India. However, these do not apply to their own citizens.
More than 400,000 new corona infections and 3,523 deaths were registered in India on Friday alone - according to official figures, which, according to experts, do not adequately reflect the extent of the epidemic disaster. At least 9,000 Australians, mostly of Indian origin, who are currently in India according to lists from the Foreign Ministry in Canberra, are also exposed to the risk of infection.
Australia's liberal-conservative federal government justifies the drastic measures with the fact that the high number of returnees from India who tested positive was "unmanageable" for the country's quarantine system. The initiative was triggered by the return flight of two cricket professionals working in India who had managed to fly back to their homeland via the Gulf state of Qatar.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic just over a year ago, only own citizens have been allowed to enter, foreigners only in exceptional cases and only in limited numbers. Every traveler has to isolate himself for 14 days in quarantine, mostly in strictly guarded hotels. This extensive isolation is considered to be partly responsible for the fact that the country has come through the pandemic so well so far. Since its inception, Australia has only registered just under 30,000 corona cases - in more than a year, as many as Germany a week ago in a single day.
The quarantine system has loopholes
Up until a few days ago, Australian ministers had hailed this system as "world leader". But the travel ban that has now been adopted shows that it "doesn't work," criticizes the Australian medical association AMA. "The decision proves the weakness of our quarantine system," said its president Omar Khorshid, but it should be "frankly remedial". The opposition Labor Party complained that more than a year after the outbreak of the pandemic, the federal government had not created its own quarantine facilities for a long time.
So far, the government in Canberra has left that to the states. Internment camps for refugees, which the federal government maintains on sparsely populated islands or in the remote outback and which are currently largely empty, are not suitable as communal accommodation with shared sanitary facilities, the government justifies itself. However, despite appeals from the states, she has not started to convert such or similar facilities such as abandoned barracks.
Quarantine in hotels always causes problems. Since November, 16 cases have been recorded in which travelers tested positive after leaving quarantine after 14 days. Apparently they got infected during this time. Only last weekend was a multi-day lockdown imposed on the Western Australian metropolis of Perth because of such a case. Critics complain that in many places in these hotels there is still insufficient protective equipment available for the staff and that there are no precautions to check the ventilation systems for virus security.
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