Australia’s prime minister fended off accusations of racism and having blood on his palms on Tuesday, as he retreated from a menace to jail Australians attempting to flee Covid-hit India.

PM Scott Morrison’s authorities moved to ban travellers from India from getting into Australia till May 15, threatening rule-breakers – together with Australian residents – with jail time.

Amid a widespread backlash, Morrison has mentioned it was “highly unlikely” that Australians who skirted a ban could be jailed. “I think the likelihood of any of that occurring is pretty much zero,” Morrison mentioned in a breakfast-time media blitz.

Around 9,000 Australians are believed to be in India, the place tons of of hundreds of latest coronavirus instances are being detected each day and the dying toll is hovering.

Among these trapped are a few of Australia’s most excessive profile sporting stars – cricketers taking part in within the Indian Premier League. Commentator and former Test cricket star Michael Slater was amongst those that pilloried Morrison’s determination, saying it was a “disgrace”.

“Blood on your hands PM. How dare you treat us like this,” he had tweeted. Morrison later mentioned the thought he had blood on his palms was “absurd”.

“The buck stops here when it comes to these decisions, and I’m going to take decisions that I believe are going to protect Australia from a third wave,” he mentioned. “I’m working to bring them home safely,” he added, indicating that repatriation flights might start quickly after May 15.

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