Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has insisted his state won’t take as many returned travellers as NSW because his quarantine system has “higher standards”.
“This is not about boasting, it’s just a fact,” Premier Andrews told a press conference on Monday.
Victoria is due to increase its arrival limit from 1,120 to 1,310 next week in response to Prime Minister Scott Morrison ending a temporary reduction of numbers nationwide. However, these figures are substantially lower than NSW, which will return its cap to 3,010.
“We will have less capacity because we have a different model and I lead higher standards,” said Premier Andrews.
“I can say it because it’s true. And whether that’s convenient for people or not, is not really my concern. There’s not 3,500 private security working in our system. Do I need to go any further than that?
“If I was to align many of the criticisms that have been levied, over a long period of time, with what we do now, I’m very confident that we have a system that is worthy of being copied by others, and it is.
“If it was anything other than one of the best systems – the AMA over in WA were calling it the gold standard – they’re not terms I use, but that’s what they said, if it was anything other than a good system, then I doubt very much that the first ministers across the country would have agreed to copy it.
“It’s not a point of criticism of anyone else. They can speak to their systems. I’m simply making the point that we will not be getting to 3,000, because I don’t believe that 3,000 would be safe. That’s my judgment, and I’ll be accountable for that.”
Premier Andrews also listed the improvements made to the system following last year’s second wave of COVID cases that killed 801 people and is thought to have originated from the hotel quarantine system.
“We’ve ripped out the air conditioning in a number of these places and put new systems in, we’ve changed the way air flows, we rip up the carpet in all the common areas … so hallways for instance, and lino is put down so we can clean shared spaces where there could be a transmission to industrial standards,” he said.
“No one else does this. There’s 50 other points where we do things differently, sometimes significantly differently, sometimes it’s a smaller thing, but when you add all that together, it’s a very risk averse model.
“It needs to be, and I can’t rule out further changes.”
Nationwide, from 15 February, the new limits will be:
- 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).
In January, temporary cuts to the caps formed part of the biggest overhaul of the quarantine program since its inception, and also included 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.
Critics have argued limits have stopped Australians abroad being able to return home by reducing availability and increasing prices.