Australia moves to close travel loophole that allowed travel from India

Australia has closed a loophole that allowed travellers from India to avoid a flight ban by transiting in Qatar.

India’s spiralling coronavirus catastrophe has prompted Australia to pause all flights from the Asian nation until 15 May.

Despite the ban, people who had been in India were allowed to fly to Australia after transiting through Qatar’s capital Doha.

Australian cricketers Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson were among those who avoided the restriction after leaving the Indian Premier League.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the loophole was closed shortly after their flight took off from Doha on Wednesday.

“Those transit passengers, the airlines advise us, are no longer coming through from Doha,” he told Sydney radio 2GB radio on Friday.

“The advice we had wasn’t fully correct so when we got the additional information we took that action.”

Mr Morrison flagged further safeguards on stopping people using third countries to evade the Indian travel ban would be applied after Friday’s national cabinet meeting.

National cabinet will on Friday consider classifying more countries as high risk with India, the sole nation on Australia’s list.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly and foreign affairs officials have been putting together a list of high-risk countries for consideration.

India set another gut-wrenching world record on Thursday with more than 379,000 new cases and 3645 deaths.

Flights from there have been paused until at least 15 May, leaving thousands of Australians trying to escape the disease disaster even more stranded than before.

The vaccine rollout is also high on the meeting of federal and state leaders’ agenda with the pace of jabs slowly gaining momentum after a sluggish first two months.

“This is just a matter of just continuing to keep those clinic doors open, booking the jabs, getting them through,” Mr Morrison said.

Wrangling between the federal government and states continues with Victoria asking for money to establish a quarantine hub in Melbourne’s north.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton knocked the plan on the head because it requires $200 million in federal funding, while the state government is chipping in $15 million.

“I have seen some political smoke and mirrors over my time and I think this is right at the top of the list,” Mr Dutton told the Nine Network.

The federal government is adamant hotels remain the preferred option to house people coming from overseas despite state pleas to set up purpose-built facilities.

Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles said the federal government had shirked its constitutional responsibility for quarantine.

“Hotels are not fit for purpose,” he told Nine.

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