Paul Kelly warns Australians will die if India Covid travel ban extended

Australia’s top doctor has warned the India travel ban must not be extended or citizens trapped in the country’s Covid nightmare will die.

Professor Paul Kelly wrote a letter to Health Minister Greg Hunt expressing his ‘grave concern’ for Australians and permanent residents unable to get home.

‘These include the risk of serious illness without access to healthcare, the potential for Australians to be stranded in a transit country, and in a worst-case scenario, deaths,’ he wrote in correspondence that will be read in Parliament on Tuesday.

India’s unfolding disaster has reached 370,000 new cases and nearly 3,500 deaths a day thanks to a new ‘double-mutant’ strain ravaging the country. 

Professor Paul Kelly says Australia's travel ban with India will result in deaths for Australians due to the lack of available healthcare in the country

Professor Paul Kelly says Australia's travel ban with India will result in deaths for Australians due to the lack of available healthcare in the country

Professor Paul Kelly says Australia’s travel ban with India will result in deaths for Australians due to the lack of available healthcare in the country

Australia has suspended all flights to and from India until May 15 as the crisis in India worsens

Australia has suspended all flights to and from India until May 15 as the crisis in India worsens

Australia has suspended all flights to and from India until May 15 as the crisis in India worsens

Scott Morrison (pictured) has come under more fire for blocking Australians from coming home from India

Scott Morrison (pictured) has come under more fire for blocking Australians from coming home from India

Scott Morrison (pictured) has come under more fire for blocking Australians from coming home from India

Scott Morrison banned all flights from India until May 15, stranding 9,000 Australians in the virus-stricken country.

The government repeatedly insisted its actions were based on medical advice, but Professor Kelly would be the one giving that advice. 

Several high-profile Australians made impassioned pleas to return home, including current and former cricketers who had been in India for the Indian Premier League.

Former test opener Michael Slater said Morrison has ‘blood on his hands’ for refusing to let Australians come back.

Professor Kelly noted there is ‘significant risk’ in allowing travel from India and agreeing with a brief pause on flights, he stressed they only remain temporary.

‘I consider that these serious implications can be mitigated through having the restriction only temporarily in place, i.e. a pause, and by ensuring there are categories of exemptions,’ he wrote in the letter.

‘Due to the high proportion of positive cases arising from arrivals from India, I consider a pause until May 15, 2021, on arrivals from India to be an effective and proportionate measure to maintain the integrity of Australia’s quarantine system.

‘This measure will likely allow the system to recover capacity, which is a critical intervention in preventing and managing the spread of Covid-19 in Australia.’ 

A family member performs the last rites of a COVID-19 victim at a crematorium in Jammu

A family member performs the last rites of a COVID-19 victim at a crematorium in Jammu

A family member performs the last rites of a COVID-19 victim at a crematorium in Jammu

Michael Slater (picture, front, in Mumbai) was recently in India working as a commentator for the Indian Premier League

Michael Slater (picture, front, in Mumbai) was recently in India working as a commentator for the Indian Premier League

Michael Slater (picture, front, in Mumbai) was recently in India working as a commentator for the Indian Premier League

Pat Cummins (pictured with partner Becky Boston) is among the Australians still stuck in India - and he's been plunged into isolation after two Indian teammates tested positive to Covid-19

Pat Cummins (pictured with partner Becky Boston) is among the Australians still stuck in India - and he's been plunged into isolation after two Indian teammates tested positive to Covid-19

Pat Cummins (pictured with partner Becky Boston) is among the Australians still stuck in India – and he’s been plunged into isolation after two Indian teammates tested positive to Covid-19

Professor Kelly said Australia’s ability to deal with ‘leakage’ and the virus spreading through hotel quarantine facilities was ‘limited’ and urged the government to take further control of the centres.

‘Each new case identified in quarantine increases the risk of leakage into the Australian community through transmission to quarantine workers or other quarantined returnees and subsequently into the Australian community more broadly,’ he said.

Scott Morrison stuck to his guns on Today on Tuesday morning that there would be no repeat of past outbreaks.

‘I’m not going to fail Australia. I’m going to protect our borders at this time,’ he told the program.

‘We will use the measures we have available. We will use them compassionately and fairly and responsibly as we have demonstrated more than a year with these sorts of penalties and fines which have already been in place to protect Australia.

‘If we didn’t do this it would seriously jeopardise our ability to do that over the longer term. So, we’re acting now to ensure that we can do more over a longer period of time for those who remain in India.’ 

More Stories
Harrods embroiled in handbag row over Hindu god clutch