Australia moves to close travel loophole

Scott Morrison has flagged more safeguards to stop travellers evading the Indian travel ban.
Scott Morrison has flagged more safeguards to stop travellers evading the Indian travel ban.

Australia has slammed shut a loophole that allowed travellers from India to dodge a flight ban through transiting in Qatar.

India's spiralling coronavirus catastrophe prompted Australia to pause all flights from the Asian nation until May 15.

Despite the ban, people who had been in India were allowed to fly to Australia after transiting through Qatar's capital Doha.

Australian cricketers Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson were among those who dodged the restriction after leaving the Indian Premier League.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the loophole was closed shortly after their flight took off from Doha on Wednesday.

"Those transit passengers, the airlines advise us, are no longer coming through from Doha," he told 2GB radio on Friday.

"The advice we had wasn't fully correct so when we got the additional information we took that action."

Mr Morrison flagged further safeguards on stopping people using third countries to evade the Indian travel ban would be applied after Friday's national cabinet meeting.

But he didn't front the media afterwards, leaving Health Minister Greg Hunt - who is not a member of national cabinet - to speak about a meeting he didn't attend.

Flights out of India have been paused until at least May 15, leaving thousands of Australians trying to escape the disease disaster even more stranded than before.

Mr Hunt said the leaders resolved to restart repatriation flights from India when it was safe.

"The prime minister and national cabinet were focused on making sure we have a path way for repatriation flights from India to begin as soon as possible after May 15," he told reporters in Melbourne.

He said a reduction in case numbers at the Howard Springs quarantine centre in the NT and hotels around the country would allow flights to resume.

Mr Hunt defended the prime minister's decision not to hold a news conference after national cabinet.

"The PM has spoken on many, many days in the last week. Today national cabinet was more in review than decision-making mode," he said.

India set another shocking world record on Friday with 386,452 new cases, with about 7.7 million infections since the end of February when the second wave gathered stream.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese urged the government to offer vaccines and financial support for the 9000 citizens stuck in India.

"Whilst there's some very high-profile people in India who are getting some publicity, there's also Australian citizens who are doing it really tough," he told reporters in Sydney.

The opposition is also calling for the federal government to establish purpose-built quarantine centres in each state and territory.

But the coalition continues to resist state plans for regional facilities aimed at cutting the risk of outbreaks and lockdowns.

There were more than 67,000 vaccinations administered in Australia in the past 24 hours, taking the total past 2.17 million.

Australian Associated Press