The Prime Minister of Australia denied allegations of racism and had blood in his hands on Tuesday, when he withdrew from a threat against the Australian prison that was trying to escape from Covid-destroyed India.
Scott Morrison’s government moved to ban travelers from India from entering Australia until May 15 and threatened lawbreakers – including Australian citizens – with jail time.
In the midst of a widespread backlash, Morrison said on Tuesday that it was “highly unlikely” that Australians who considered a ban would be jailed.
“I think the likelihood of any of this happening is pretty much zero,” Morrison said in a media flash for breakfast on Tuesday.
About 9,000 Australians are believed to be in India, where hundreds of thousands of new cases of coronavirus are being detected every day and the number of deaths is rising sharply.
Among those caught are some of Australia’s most prominent sports stars – cricketers who play in the lucrative Indian Premier League.
Commentator and former test cricket star Michael Slater was among those who understood Morrison’s decision and said it was a “shame”.
“Blood on your hands PM. How dare you treat us like this,” he tweeted. “If our government cared about the security of the Aussies, they would allow us to come home.”
If our government cared about the security of the Aussies, they would allow us to come home. It’s a shame !! Blood on your hands PM. How dare you treat us like this. How about arranging the quarantine system. I had the authorities’ permission to work with the IPL, but now I have neglected the government
– Michael Slater (@mj_slats) May 3, 2021
Morrison said the idea of having blood in his hands was “absurd”.
“The goat stays here when it comes to these decisions, and I will make decisions that I believe will protect Australia from a third wave,” he said.
“I am working to get them home safely,” he added, indicating that home flights could begin shortly after May 15.
The decision took effect on Monday and was condemned by rights groups and some of Morrison’s most prominent allies, including Sky News commentator Andrew Bolt, who said it “stinks of racism”.
Australia has largely avoided the worst pandemic through some of the strictest border controls in the world.
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There is a complete ban on traveling to and from the country unless exceptions are guaranteed.
Foreign residents are usually prohibited from entering and anyone entering the country must carry out a mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine.
But that system has become increasingly strained as the virus has jumped from quarantine facilities and caused a series of outbreaks in the largely unvaccinated community.
The Conservative prime minister is facing re-election in the next 12 months, hoping that Australia’s relatively successful handling of the pandemic would drive him to victory.
But the travel ban in India and an expansion of the ice vaccine have led to criticism.
Australia has administered 2.2 million vaccine doses to a population of 25 million people, each of whom needs two doses to be fully immunized.