Australia moves to close COVID transit travel loophole

April 30, 2021
Image: Doha airport.

The Australian government has moved to prevent further instances of people circumventing travel bans on COVID hot spots such as India.

Australia earlier this week banned flights from India but the government discovered on Wednesday that passengers were getting around the ban by traveling through the Qatari capital of Doha.

This included two cricketers who arrived in Australia Thursday on a Qatar Airways flight after using the travel loophole.

READ: Covid crisis prompts Australia to suspend flights from India.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told 2GB’s Ben Fordham Friday that the government had shut down the loophole Wednesday night after it had been detected earlier in the day.

Morrison said the government’s information on Monday was that it was not possible for people to travel indirectly via the Gulf city.

“I’m advised there’s a 14-day requirement when someone goes into Doha but that wasn’t being applied to transit passengers,’’ he said.

“That was different to the advice we had on Monday night. It came to our attention, we acted, we had it changed on Wednesday night.”

Morrison said the government dealt directly with airlines in Qatar and had been told transit passengers from India were no longer coming through Doha.

“The other places they were coming from were principally coming from were Singapore and Kuala Lumper and our advice is that those routes are closed off as I said earlier in the week,” he said.

“Doha was another of those and the advice we had on that wasn’t fully correct so when we got the additional information, we took action and I propose to take further information today, which will be done under the Biosecurity Act.”

Health Minister Greg Hunt later said Australia was hoping to resume repatriation flights from India as soon as possible after the current end date of the flight suspensions on May 15.

He said Australia’s national cabinet was looking to ensure there was a pathway for repatriation flights from India once there was a reduction in the number of cases at the Howard Springs quarantine facility and on commercial flights.

News of loophole emerged as two passengers from New Guinea sparked a health alert Friday after they unwittingly moved from the red zone for travelers from high-risk countries to the green zone at Brisbane International Airport.

One of the passengers tested positive for COVID after arriving in Australia, despite both returning negative tests prior to departure.

Queensland authorities issued the alert after the passengers spent two hours in the green zone on Thursday, mixing with hundreds of others as they spent time in a café, visited a toilet and a retail outlet.

Anyone who visited the terminal on Thursday morning after 9:45am, including passengers on three green zone flights that left Brisbane for New Zealand, has been told to monitor their health for the next 14 days and get tested if they feel unwell.

Staff who came into contact with the man have been ordered into quarantine.