Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged states to continue to open their borders despite Melbourne entering lockdown on Wednesday night.
Speaking from Canberra, PM Morrison said, “My view about people moving from New South Wales to Queensland or to South Australia or Western Australia has not changed. When you have a situation of an outbreak, you contain the outbreak. And that outbreak is presently in Melbourne.”
The PM’s backing for interstate travel came on a day of drama that saw the NSW-Victoria border finally shut; Jetstar passengers from Melbourne let into Sydney without screening; and a proposal to cap the number of overseas repatriations into Australia.
However, the PMs comments on border closures will be seen as a huge boost for the aviation industry as jitters over a spike in cases in Melbourne continues.
“We need to understand what’s happened here in Victoria. What we have effectively done is Victoria has self-isolated,” he said.
“So that creates a protection for all the other states and territories at the one time and it doesn’t leave it to the arbitrary decision of one premier or another premier.
“Arbitrary decisions about state borders is a separate issue and we’ll continue to maintain our position – that Australia is one country and that response that is needed in relation to outbreaks, well, that will be put in place and that will provide the appropriate protections and that’s what’s being done.”
Currently, many states are still blocking travel to states other than Victoria. WA, for instance, has a hard border with SA and the NT; while SA is blocking travel from the ACT and NSW.
His backing comes despite an apparent breach of protocol at Sydney Airport on Tuesday night that saw 48 passengers from Melbourne able to leave without any type of health screening.
In order to minimise the pressure on Victoria, screenings are now conducted on the NSW side of the border closure for any essential workers or citizens returning home.
NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said the apparent mix up occurred because the health team were tending to another flight.
“All those individuals [from the Jetstar flight] are known. We’re in the process of chasing them up. If anyone’s travelled in breach of any orders we will refer them to police and take the appropriate action if anyone is symptomatic,” Dr Chant said.
Jetstar responded by insisting that their disembarkation processes have been “refined” and that passengers will now be kept on board until a screening team is waiting to meet them.
Meanwhile, PM Morrison has followed New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s lead and proposed a cap on the number of international travellers who can enter the country – regardless of whether they are returning citizens.
The move is designed to ease pressure on those in hotel quarantine.
“The fact is that New South Wales has been bearing the largest burden of people returning to Australia and they’re people – they’re Queenslanders, they’re Western Australians, they’re Tasmanians – and New South Wales has done the heavy-lifting on that and foot the bill for it, I should say,” Prime Minister Morrison said.
“Now, in Victoria, we have suspended those flights coming in and that has meant that people have moved on to other flights going into other capitals and we have looked at that and as I said I’ll be taking a proposal to the national cabinet to slow that down as of this Friday.”