Prime Minister Scott Morrison has placed a pause on all flights from India, but there is still a sneaky loophole travellers from the COVID-19-ravaged nation can use to get into Australia.
The decision to pause flights came in a bid to reduce the number of infected travellers arriving in Australia, with hotel quarantine cases across the country skyrocketing in recent days.
However, it is still possible for anyone with a valid travel exemption to get around the ban by transiting through another country.
Almost 20 countries have now stopped flights from India, but Qatar and China are still offering trips.
Flights from these countries have still been arriving in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane airport, with more scheduled for the future.
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This means a person travelling from India could transit through one of these countries before coming to Australia.
News Corp contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and asked about the loophole but the department just referred to the comments Mr Morrison made about the travel pause on Tuesday.
In his statement, Mr Morrison mentioned indirect flights through Dubai, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur have been paused, though he didn’t mention the possible transit through Qatar and China.
Other countries that have placed a temporary ban on flights from India include New Zealand, Iran, France, US, UK, Hong Kong, Canada,
The decision to pause all flights from India to Australia until May 15 has left thousands of Australians stranded in the country while it battles a deadly second wave of COVID-19 infections.
When flights resume, people wishing to enter Australia will be required to have both a negative PCR test result and a negative Rapid Antigen test result prior to taking off.
Mr Morrison said priority would be given to vulnerable Australians wishing to return home.
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Hotel quarantine cases still rising
It comes as multiple states and territories have experienced a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases in hotel quarantine.
NSW, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory have all experienced a rise in infected returned travellers.
On Wednesday, NSW recorded nine new hotel quarantine infections, with Ms Berejiklian warning Thursday’s figures are expected to exceed this number.
“I was just advised that overnight we have already had double digit new cases in our hotel quarantine system, which we will report on tomorrow,” she said during Wednesday’s press conference.
“The increasing incidents of disease in some parts of the world is very substantial, it is impacting us in our quarantine system.”
Authorities are still working to determine the source of origin for the new hotel quarantine cases but chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant confirmed there has been a rise in infections coming from India.
“As you would expect we are seeing a higher rate of positivity in returning travellers from India,” she said.
It follows multiple days of high quarantine infections rates, with NSW recording 49 new quarantine cases since Friday.
Queensland, which had previously been recording low levels of daily infections in returned travellers, experienced a sharp rise with nine hotel cases confirmed overnight.
South Australia has also seen an increase in hotel quarantine infections, recording 14 new cases on Monday, up from the nine recorded on Friday.
Likewise, the Northern Territory has been battling a wave of international cases, recording four new infections on Monday, 10 on Saturday and 13 on Friday.
Of those quarantine cases, 24 had arrived on flights from India.
In the past two days, Western Australia has recorded eight new hotel quarantine cases, the majority of which have been linked to returned travellers from India.
Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan claimed more than half of Australia’s active COVID-19 cases were now from people who had returned from India.
“These days the rate is now over half of our cases are out of India,” Mr McGowan told reporters on Wednesday, labelling the situation “terribly tragic”.