Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced the country’s international arrival caps will return to its high December 2020 levels after a temporary reduction in January.
He also maintained that the hotel quarantine process will continue for the foreseeable future and will remain regardless of vaccination.
The levels were cut at the start of 2021 following a second COVID cluster in Sydney and following worries that more transmissible international variants of the virus could leak into the community.
From 15 February, NSW will return to its weekly cap of 3,010 and Queensland to 1,000. In full, the new limits are:
- NSW 3,010 (now 1,505)
- Queensland 1,000 (now 500)
- Victoria 1,310 (now 1,120)
- SA 530 (now 490)
- WA 512 (now 512)
- Total 6,362 (now 4,127).
The government’s repatriation flights to destinations such as Northern Territory, Canberra and Hobart do not count under the current caps.
PM Morrison also spoke about proposals to develop another specific quarantine facility in Toowoomba, Queensland.
“We are still seeking a lot more information on that proposal, and the secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has pulled together the various agencies that are needed to assess that proposal,” he said.
“There is a lot more information we’re going to need before we can get to an assessment of how we go forward on that.”
In January, the temporary cuts formed part of the biggest overhaul of the quarantine program since its inception, and also include a provision for passengers to wear masks on all domestic and international flights; for hotel staff to be tested daily and for ex-pats to require a negative result before boarding a repatriation flight.
Arrival caps were introduced in July and sat at 4,000, before increasing to 6,500 at the end of 2020 and then decreasing to just over 4,000 in January 2021.
The increase will likely be welcomed by the Board of Airline Representatives of Australia, which has made numerous interventions over the last few months advocating higher caps.
Recently, the group estimated the actual figure of stranded Australians trying to return home could be as high as 100,000 and revealed many of their members had stopped selling tickets to stranded Australians because the caps were so strict.