The loophole that allowed travellers from India to travel to Australia despite the travel ban by transiting in Qatar has been closed, reported local news agency SBS News on Friday (30 Apr).
The ban, which is in place until 15 May following the worrying spike in new COVID-19 cases there recently, was meant to keep travellers from India out of Australia.
However, it appears that some people were able to circumvent the ban by transiting via Doha in Qatar. Some prominent names who managed to do that include Australian cricketers Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson who were returning from playing in the Indian Premier League.
According to Prime Minister Scott Morrison in an interview on a Sydney radio station 2GB, the loophole was closed just shortly after the flight from Doha took off on Wednesday.
He said, “Those transit passengers, the airlines advise us, are no longer coming through from Doha.”
“The advice we had wasn’t fully correct so when we got the additional information we took that action.”
Mr Morrison added that further safeguards would be implemented to stop people from using different countries in order to go around Australia’s travel ban on India. These measures would be applied following the country’s cabinet meeting on Friday.
The Australian cabinet is also meeting to consider classifying other countries as high risk as well. They will be considering a list put together by Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly and foreign affairs officials, reported SBS News.
Similarly in Hong Kong, the city has just classified Nepal as extremely high-risk for COVID-19, triggering a suspension of flights from the region starting Saturday in an effort to reduce the number of imported cases, said the Hong Kong government on Thursday (29 Apr).
Earlier this month, Hong Kong had imposed the same mechanism on flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines, over the rising number of cases there.
The mechanism provides that if five or more travellers from the same place are confirmed positive with the N501Y strain of COVID-19 in seven days, all passenger flights from that place will be prohibited from landing in Hong Kong for 14 days.
This is part of a circuit breaker measure the city has put in place to prevent further spread of the mutated strain of the virus, which was first detected in South Africa.
Last week, Hong Kong reported that at least 49 passengers on a flight from New Delhi had tested positive for COVI-19, which triggered the emergency ban on all flights from India. Several of the imported cases were reported to carry the N501Y mutant strain of the virus.
Authorities in Hong Kong had also said that there were several cases detected on flights arriving in the city from Mumbai.