Australia’s latest move fits a pattern. The island has maintained some of the strictest border measures in the world since the pandemic began. No one can leave the country without official government permission. Coming home, even from a country with declining infection rates, often seems to require government connections, celebrity status or luck, along with $30,000 for a one-way plane ticket.
There are about 35,000 Australians overseas who have been unable to make the journey either because they have been unable to obtain seats on repatriation flights or because they have been unable to afford the tickets.
In the case of India, Australia’s already opaque, unequal and selective policy — based in part on how many people can be moved through for 14-day hotel quarantine — has become absolute. It means keeping thousands of Australians in a place where coronavirus case numbers have skyrocketed; where hospitals have run out of beds, ventilators and medical oxygen; and where crematories are burning day and night amid a deluge of bodies.
Australian officials said the new restrictions — with penalties of up to five years in prison and nearly 60,000 Australian dollars ($46,300) in fines under Australia’s Biosecurity Act — would keep its hotel quarantine system from being overwhelmed.
“Fifty-seven percent of the positive cases in quarantine had been arrivals from India,” Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Sunday. “It was placing a very, very significant burden on health and medical services in states and territories.”
But for Australians in India, the policy amounts to a stunning lack of concern.
“I thought our passports would look after us,” said Emily McBurnie, an Australian wellness coach who has been stranded in New Delhi since March 2020 and has been ill with Covid-19 for more than a month. She said that the Australian government owed more to its citizens, and added that if her health deteriorated, she feared she would not have access to oxygen or an intensive care bed.
This content was originally published here.