Prime Minister Scott Morrison has denied he has “blood on his hands” after former Australian cricketer Michael Slater said the federal government’s ban on returnees from India was a “disgrace”.
Australians who return from India face a fine of up to $66,000 and five years’ jail after changes to the Biosecurity Act signed off by Health Minister Greg Hunt on Friday.
There are about 9000 Australians trying to get home from India, where more than 300,000 new COVID-19 cases were recorded on Monday for a 12th consecutive day.
Appearing on breakfast television on Tuesday, Mr Morrison said the likelihood of jailing or fining Australians who somehow make their way back from India amid the flight ban was “highly unlikely”.
“I think the likelihood of any of that occurring is pretty much zero,” Mr Morrison said.
Slater had been in India commentating for the Indian Premier League but has reportedly flown to the Maldives as he waits to return home.
If our Government cared for the safety of Aussies they would allow us to get home. It’s a disgrace!! Blood on your hands PM. How dare you treat us like this. How about you sort out quarantine system. I had government permission to work on the IPL but I now have government neglect— Michael Slater (@mj_slats)
“Blood on your hands PM,” he said on Twitter on Monday night.
“How dare you treat us like this. I had government permission to work on the IPL but I now have government neglect.”
Slater said for those thinking the IPL was a “money exercise”, he had “not made a penny” by leaving early.
Mr Morrison defended the flight ban as a temporary pause in response to a “rapid escalation” in COVID-19 infection rates.
“By the 15th of May, I’m confident we will be in a position to start resuming those repatriation flights and getting people home safely,” he told Nine’s Today show.
Mr Morrison said the alternative to legislating the penalties would have been to stop flights coming from “third countries” between India and Australia, such as through airports in Dubai and Doha, affecting “hundreds of people if not thousands” more people seeking to fly home to Australia.
Australian players Kane Richardson and Adam Zampa quit the IPL and flew out last Wednesday but umpire Paul Reiffel’s journey out of India was shut off.
Cricketers Pat Cummins and Ben Cutting are in isolation after two of their Kolkata Knight Riders teammates tested positive for COVID-19.
Australian Cricketers’ Association chief executive Todd Greenberg said the figures out of India were concerning and realistically, now that the coronavirus is within the IPL “bubble”, there may be more cases.
“Both boys are fine, I spoke to Pat last night, they’re doing pretty well all things considered,” he told 2GB on Tuesday.
“They do feel relatively safe where they are. There’s obviously a lot of anxiety about making sure they can get home safely and that’s obviously tricky given some of the government restrictions that have been put in place too.”
Mr Greenberg said he believed the majority of Australian players had gone to India “with their eyes wide open” and willing to fulfil their commitments.
“They are strong words and I think you can sense through Michael his frustration, and I’m sure that frustration will be shared by a lot of Australians who are stranded, not just cricketers, but Australians stranded in other parts of the world who want to come home.
“It’s a very difficult one for the government. They’re clearly trying to keep us all safe here but also look after our own who are elsewhere across the world.
“They also clearly want to come home in the end,” he said. “There’s just not a definitive plan on how that’s going to happen at the moment.”
He reassured the families of the players that they will be returned safely “at the right time”.
Source: Thanks msn.com