PM warning on international travel
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned Australian residents overseas to brace for reduced flights amid the growing number of COVID-19 cases being brought back into the country from returned travellers.
Since international borders were closed in mid-March, more 357,000 Australian citizens and permanent residents have returned amid the global coronavirus pandemic, according to the ABC. Anyone returning has been forced into 14 days of mandatory hotel quarantine to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Earlier this week, the Government said they will cap overseas arrivals into Sydney Airport at 450 people per day, as Victoria suspends international passenger flights into Melbourne for at least a fortnight to help ease pressure on quarantine facilities in the state.
The decision for the Garden State to suspend arrivals has put pressure on other states to accept international arrivals, putting strain on hotel quarantine facilities, especially in NSW.
Mr Morrison said he had received a plea from Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan to also cap international arrivals into Perth, noting he will be taking a proposal to National Cabinet on Friday to discuss the possibility of reducing international flights nationwide.
"I have been discussing (international arrivals) with premiers over the last 24 hours," Mr Morrison said.
"I had a good discussion with Premier McGowan about the same thing yesterday. 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.
"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 National Cabinet to slow that down as of this Friday."
WA Health Minister Roger Cook said it was agreed to cap the number of international (passenger) arrivals to 525 a week, or about 75 a day.
Currently, under government rules, people are still allowed to fly into Australia if they're citizens, residents, or immediate family members of Australians.
While the number of returning travellers has decreased, Mr Morrison said the proposal was more about containing numbers rather than putting a pause on flights.
"The issue is what the overall level of returning Australians is, and that's why I'll be bringing a proposal on Friday to reduce that load," he said.
"There is a volume that can be accommodated by the states and territories currently but they certainly wouldn't want to see that increase.
"At this time, we don't want to put any more pressure on the system than is absolutely necessary."
Mr Morrison said that the move to enforce return travellers to pay for their own hotel quarantine would be "completely understandable" given the length of time overseas travellers had been given to return home.
"There's been many opportunities for people to return. If they're choosing to do so now they've obviously delayed that decision for a period," he said.