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03 May 2021

Media releases

Consistency required in approach to international COVID-19 outbreaks

Australia’s robust COVID-19 containment system could open the door for citizens and visa holders in India who are seeking to return home, according to community organisation and social business Settlement Services International (SSI).

Effective today, travellers – including Australian citizens – who have visited India within 14 days of arriving in Australia could face up to five years jail time and heavy fines.

Putting in place a hard border for arrivals from India risked undermining the progress Australia has made towards re-establishing itself as a member of the global economy, said Yamamah Agha, General Manager Service Deliver – Settlement, at SSI, which provides services and supports to culturally and linguistically diverse communities in Australia.

“Our state and federal governments have safely enabled some 500,000 people to travel into Australia since border restrictions were put in place in March 2020,” she said.

“This testing period bought Australia time to establish robust quarantine, testing and tracing protocols that have prevented mass outbreaks. The question now should be how do we expand that process, not how do we further restrict arrivals.”

Incoming arrivals have contributed to contained COVID-19 outbreaks in Australia, but overall, the current system shows it is possible to protect Australians from the pandemic without shutting the door on citizens and other visa holders, Ms Agha said.

“Despite escalating situations in the UK and US, Australia did not put in place a hard border for arrivals from those destinations. Taking such a stance with India risks undermining confidence in our robust COVID-19 containment systems,” she said.

“Through this pandemic, Australia has been a leading example of an effective, bipartisan approach to reducing the risks COVID-19 presents to its citizens and residents.

“This has proven to be a sound approach that protects Australians, while also rejecting an isolationist approach to this pandemic.”

Ms Agha said enforcing a hard border policy against a single country risked stranding Australians, who should be safe to return given Australia’s effective COVID-19 containment procedures and success managing arrivals over the past year.

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