The decision to implement a travel ban has caused distress in the Wagga Indian community, however leaders say it was a difficult but necessary move.
From yesterday, anyone who has been in India within two weeks of their intended travel date to Australia is banned from entering the country.
Those in breach could face fines of up to $66,000 or five years in prison.
Amit Gupta, the general secretary of the Wagga Indian Community, said they were overwhelmed by sadness at the news of the ban.
Mr Gupta said the Australian Government is neglecting their duties towards Australians who are stuck overseas.
"We should give priority to people, especially our fellow Aussies who are stranded, to get them out of there," he said. "I have friends who have been stuck for 12 months.
"They have been trying their best to come home. I understand they are trying to protect Australia, but they can quarantine them, test them and make sure they are COVID-free."
The Australian Human Rights Commission said it holds deep concerns about these extraordinary new restrictions.
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But, Riverina MP and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said, the decision had not been taken lightly, and the goal was to protect as many of its citizens as possible.
"The situation in India is truly devastating - the last thing we want to see is further heartbreak on our shores because of Australia's public health and quarantine systems being overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases," he said.
"There has already been a significant uptick in positive cases in Australia's quarantine system - in the week before restrictions were implemented, 57 per cent of COVID-19 cases were from India, up from around 10 per cent just one month ago.
"Australia's inward and outward travel restrictions are consistent with international human rights law."
Mr McCormack said this was a temporary ban, and the government understands the distress it may cause.
Wagga MP Joe McGirr said while he understood how upsetting it was, it was an emergency measure to keep the country safe.
He referenced a similar decision when in early 2020, foreign nationals who travelled through mainland China were not allowed to enter Australia for 14 days from the time they left.
However, Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family were exempt from the ban.
"These sorts of emergency actions are pretty important," Dr McGirr said.
"There are 9000 Australians in India, and I agree it is distressing, however, it is important we keep Australia free of the virus."
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