Australia’s prime minister faced charges of racism and was bleeding on his hands on Tuesday as he backed out of prison with a threat, trying to drive away Kovid, a citizen of Australia.
It took Scott Morrison’s government until 15 May to prohibit travelers from India from entering Australia, threatening rule-breakers – including Australian citizens – for jail time.
“It was highly unlikely that the Australians who imposed the ban would be jailed,” Mr Morrison said on Tuesday.
“I think the likelihood of any incident is very high is zero,” Mr Morrison said in a breakfast-time media blitz on Tuesday.
Around 9,000 Australians are believed to be in India, where hundreds of thousands of new coronovirus cases are being detected every day and the death toll is rising.
Australia’s most high-profile sports star – Cricketers – is playing in the Indian Premier League.
Commentator and former Test cricket star Michael Slater was among those who supported Mr Morrison’s decision, saying it was an “insult”.
“PM the blood on your hands. How dare you treat us like that,” he tweeted. “If our government cared for the safety of the Australians, they would allow us to get home.”
Mr Morrison said the blood he had on his hand was “absurd”.
“The buck stops here when it comes to these decisions, and I’m going to make decisions that I believe are going to save Australia from the third wave,” he said.
“I’m working to get them home safely,” he said, indicating that repatriation flights could begin shortly after May 15.
The decision came into force on Monday and was noted by rights groups and one of Morrison’s most prominent allies, Sky News commentator Andrew Bolt, who called it a “stink of racism”.
Australia has largely avoided the epidemic through some of the most strict border controls in the world.
There is a blanket restriction on travel from the country until an exemption is obtained.
Non-residents are banned from entering and anyone who comes into the country must mandate a 14-day hotel quarantine.
But the system has been under increasing stress as the virus has jumped from quarantine facilities and caused a series of outbreaks in the largely non-restricted community.
The conservative prime minister is set to face the next 12 months, and hoped that Australia’s relatively successful handling of the epidemic would win her over.
But the India travel ban and a glacial vaccine rollout have prompted criticism.
Australia has given a dose of 2.2 million vaccines out of a population of 25 million people, each requiring two doses to be fully immunized.