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Australian PM defends ban on India flights — 'The pandemic is raging'

Scott Morrison says the government is committed to bringing more Australians home from overseas, but can't risk a third wave of Covid-19.

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As of tomorrow, Australian citizens face jailtime or a whopping fine if they arrive from India, even if they go through a third country. Source: 1 NEWS

As the prime minister continues to cop flak over the decision to ban flights back from India until May 15, he is warming to the idea of a quarantine centre in Victoria and talking up the expansion of the Northern Territory's Howard Springs to a 2000-bed capacity.

However, a proposal for a quarantine facility in the southern Queensland city of Toowoomba appears doomed.

Cabinet minister David Littleproud said the Wellcamp facility - aimed at hosting up to 1000 travellers and 300 staff - would expose western Queensland to Covid risk.

"If there was an outbreak in Toowoomba which was to spread in outback Queensland we would have a catastrophe," he told the ABC.

Morrison is weighing up Victoria's proposal for a purpose-built quarantine facility next to the Mickleham post-entry pet quarantine centre, a Commonwealth site about 40km north of Melbourne.

The 500-bed facility would cost about $200 million (NZD$215.89 million) to build, with the state government committing $15 million (NZD$16.19 million) to get the project ready for construction.

"A lot of effort has gone into it and we will look at it seriously," Morrison said.

The prime minister said the latest figures on positive cases in passengers coming out of India demanded the government pause flights.

"The pandemic is raging," he said.

"And so my government will take the steps necessary and the actions necessary to protect Australians so we can also bring more Australians home safely."

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It's becoming more and more difficult for Kiwi citizens stuck in the virus ravaged country to get home. Source: 1 NEWS

India's official count of coronavirus cases surpassed 20 million yesterday, nearly doubling in the past three months, while the death toll has passed 220,000.

Eight crossbenchers have written to Morrison asking him to revoke the biosecurity pause, urgently repatriate Australians in India starting with the most vulnerable and set up a dedicated surge capacity quarantine facility.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke will sit down with Indian community leaders today to discuss the flight pause and the government's use of biosecurity measures which also include potential fines and jail for breaches.

So far 2.3 million Australians have been vaccinated.