New Delhi, Australian cricketers may face trouble getting back home and could be left stranded somewhere after their media reported that Australian government was mulling hefty fine and jail term for those returning from India, which is reeling under unprecedented surge in Covid-19 cases.
“The federal government is considering fining and jailing anyone who tries to enter Australia from India amid that country’s Covid-19 crisis,” said a report in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH).
As many as 14 Australian cricketers are currently playing the Indian Premier League (IPL) in India. They include top draws like David Warner, Steve Smith and Pat Cummins.
Australians are also part of various IPL franchises’ coaching/support staff and TV commentary team. They include Ricky Ponting, David Hussey, Brett Lee and Matthew Hayden among others.
“Nine News reported on Friday night that the government was considering a further step by making it a crime, punishable by a maximum $66,000 fine or five years’ jail, if they travel home from India,” said the SMH report.
“Nine reported that federal Health Minister Greg Hunt would invoke powers under the Biosecurity Act — the same legislation used to close the borders — as soon as Saturday.”
While there are 36,000 Australians stuck abroad there are 9,000 Aussies in India including the cricketers.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had earlier said that since the players are privately visiting India for the IPL they would have to ensure their return.
“They have travelled there privately,” Morrison was quoted as saying by The Guardian.
“This wasn’t part of an Australian tour. They’re under their own resources and they’ll be using those resources too, I’m sure, to see them return to Australia in accordance with their own arrangements,” the report said.
“If imposed, it would be the first time it has been made a crime for an Australian to enter their own country,” the SMH report on Friday further said.
Three of the Australian cricketers in IPL — Adam Zampa, Kane Richardson and Andrew Tye — have already returned home via Qatar. However, since their arrival home, the Australian borders have been completely sealed.
Umpire Paul Reiffel, who also wanted to return via Qatar after the three cricketers, couldn’t do so as the flights to Australia were by then cancelled. He was just 10 minutes away from leaving the IPL bio-bubble before he learnt about the cancellation of the flights.
Cricketers aren’t the only ones affected.
Bengaluru FC footballer Erik Paartalu on Friday criticised the Australian government.
“As an Aussie that has lived and worked in India for 4 years now I have never felt so far away from feeling Australian. I don’t know how you can deny citizens to return home especially when there are hotel quarantines in place,” he tweeted.
“I have worked inside a bubble for 7 months here in India and this is a huge blow to mine and thousands of others trying to get back to Australia. I hope the government aren’t able to implement what they are trying to do,” he added in the tweet.
“I understand everyone’s concern with the level of infection over here and the possibility of a new variant. But isn’t that the purpose of hotel quarantine for 14 days? Love to all those affected and hope this situation has a good outcome for all the Aussies here in India.”