Australia moves to close travel loophole

Australia has slammed shut a loophole that allowed travellers from India to dodge a flight ban through transiting in Qatar.

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

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 dodged 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 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.

The prime minister on Tuesday said indirect flights through Doha, Dubai, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur would be banned in a bid to keep people who had been in India out.

He now says the advice the government received before announcing the restrictions was wrong.

Federal, state and territory leaders will also 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 May 15, leaving thousands of Australians trying to escape the disease disaster even more stranded than before.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the government needed to offer vaccines and financial support for the 9000 citizens stuck in India.

“Whilst there’s some very high-profile people in India who are getting some publicity, there’s also Australian citizens who are doing it really tough,” he told reporters in Sydney.

Labor is also calling for the federal government to establish purpose-built quarantine centres in each state and territory.

But the coalition continues to resist state plans for regional facilities aimed at cutting the risk of outbreaks and lockdowns.

The vaccine rollout is also high on national cabinet’s agenda with the pace of jabs slowly gaining momentum after a sluggish first two months.

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