Australia’s cap limiting passenger flights into the country will continue, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed.
The decision was taken after a meeting of the national cabinet, comprised of all state leaders, where it was also decided that Victoria’s hotel quarantine program would remain suspended.
The restrictions were introduced at the start of July to ease pressure on the country’s government isolation facilities after some blamed apparent breaches in Victoria for causing a second wave of COVID-19 cases.
PM Morrison also took time to thank those working at hotel quarantine facilities for going to “a lot of effort” to make the experience positive for returning citizens.
Meanwhile, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed his own program would remain halted.
“Those Victorians or others who might have flown home through Victoria, and there’s more than 20,000 of these people that were part of our hotel quarantine program, that’s not running anymore,” Premier Andrews said.
Speaking in July when the cap on number returning to Australia was introduced, the Prime Minister said there would always be “capacity” for people to return home.
“There will be continuing access to Australia but the number of available positions on flights will be less and I don’t think that is surprising or unreasonable in the circumstances,” PM Morrison said.
“The decision that we took to reduce the number of returned travellers to Australia at this time was to ensure that we could put our focus on the resources needed to do the testing and [contact] tracing and not have to have resources diverted to other tasks.”
He added that the reason the government was asking airlines to reduce seats was that the country can’t technically turn away citizens at the border.
The move came into effect from mid-July and was followed shortly after by plans to charge those returning for their hotel accommodation.
NSW and South Australia now charge Australians returning home from abroad $3,000 to stay in hotel quarantine, while Queensland ask for $2,800.
The fee includes meals and Australians are not asked to cover the cost of security, transport or logistics.