Australian travel restrictions with India are not as watertight as some federal authorities had hoped, with Qatar Airways confirming it remains possible to travel from India to Australia through Doha.
- Qatar airways has confirmed to the ABC that people can still travel from India to Australia via Doha
- Scott Morrison previously suggested travelling through third countries from India would be near-impossible
- Flights from India to Australia have been paused until May 15
Two Australian cricketers are demonstrating just how straightforward travel to Australia can be, arriving on a flight from Doha on Thursday afternoon.
It is understood they have received no special permissions to return, travelling under the existing rules.
Earlier this week the Prime Minister announced Australia would try and effectively cease travel from India to Australia, in response to India’s escalating coronavirus crisis.
Direct commercial and repatriation flights from India to Australia have been suspended until mid-May in an effort to protect the hotel quarantine system.
During the Tuesday press conference, Scott Morrison suggested travel from India to Australia through third countries would also become near-impossible due to restrictions being imposed by those third countries.
“We are advised that indirect flights through Doha, Dubai, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, we are aware flights to and from these transit points and India have been paused by the respective governments,” he said.
“That will obviously have impacts, in a positive way, in terms of restricting the inflow and in fact in most cases eliminating it.”
At least in the case of Doha, that does not appear to have happened.
Qatar Airways has confirmed to the ABC that it remains possible to travel from India to Australia, transiting through Doha.
“You can still travel outbound from India through Doha and on to Australia with the right documentation,” a spokesperson for Qatar Airways said.
“PCR test 48 hours prior to flight is now mandatory for any [passengers] to transit/arrive in Doha.”
The Australian Border Force has also been contacted for comment.
Australian cricketers make hasty Indian exit
Cricketers Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson land in Australia on Thursday afternoon, after choosing to exit the Indian Premier League cricket tournament early.
The IPL is due to run for roughly another month.
A spokesperson for the Australian Cricketers Association confirmed the pair bought commercial flights from India to Australia before the announcement of the new travel restrictions.
They have travelled from India to Doha, and are flying from Doha to Australia today.
It is understood Cricket Australia neither sought nor received any special permissions for the pair, and they have travelled to Australia under the current rules.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has ruled out providing any such assistance.
There are a number of Australians still in India with the IPL, including players, staff and media.
Most have indicated they intend to see out the season, although Andrew Tye returned to Australia earlier this week.
Almost 380,000 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in India today.
Doubts over international testing rules
The confusion over indirect flights came as a senior Federal Government bureaucrat cast doubt over whether Australia will be able to enforce one of its new travel restrictions, designed to limit the number of COVID-positive passengers arriving from overseas.
National Cabinet agreed to require passengers, travelling from high-risk countries, to test negative for the virus at their final point of departure – if they were taking an indirect route to Australia.
For example, someone travelling from India to Australia via Qatar would need to produce a negative test result in Doha within 72 hours of their departure.
It would be on top of any existing rules imposed by authorities in Qatar.
That move came amid concerns about the numbers of people testing positive in hotel quarantine, having departed India then travelled to Australia via a third country.
But, fronting a Senate committee hearing, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communication admitted there were doubts over whether that could be implemented.
“From an airline point of view, I can’t force a sovereign country to do things,” deputy transport secretary Christine Dacey said.
“But those are the complexities that we across government are trying to work through.”