The decision by National Cabinet to limit international arrivals to Australia to ease pressure on coronavirus quarantine systems has come into effect.
As of Monday, Perth, Brisbane, and Sydney will see fewer arrivals per week, following a decision by National Cabinet to limit Australia’s returning traveller numbers from 7,000 to just over 4,000 each week – a reduction of about a third of arrivals, according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
The move comes in a bid to “manage” and “maintain quarantine arrangements” across NSW, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia, and to free-up resources to contain Melbourne’s COVID-19 outbreak.
Currently, there are around 1,000 active coronavirus cases in Victoria, with the state recording 177 new cases overnight – the first time the daily case number has been under 200 in three days.
Morrison said the Victorian outbreak has shown that social distancing rules “must be maintained at least until a vaccine or effective treatment are found”.
Since 13 March, more than 357,000 citizens and permanent residents have returned to Australia.
To ease the load placed on state quarantine systems, National Cabinet has agreed to implement further caps on international arrivals, and an extension of current international passenger flight restrictions into Victoria.
Perth will now observe a cap of 525 international arrivals per week. Brisbane will record an overall cap of 500 international arrivals per week.
Sydney will continue to observe a cap of 450 international arrivals per day, as announced on 4 July with a view to further reductions in subsequent weeks.
The decision to limit arrivals to Western Australia comes after Premier Mark McGowan last week advised he had requested for flights to his state to be limited to around “one flight per day” off the back of Victoria’s suspension of international arrivals.
Morrison advised flexibility remains within these caps to as much as possible minimise disruptions to returning Australian citizens and permanent residents.
These arrangements will be subject to a review by the National Cabinet before the end of July.
Restrictions on outbound travel by Australian citizens and permanent residents also remain in place, in accordance with the health advice to the government, Morrison said.
National Cabinet also agreed to a national review of hotel quarantine arrangements, which will be undertaken by the former Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Health, Jane Halton, in consultation with states and territories.
It comes amid the establishment of a Victorian state inquiry, led by a former judge, into the operation of its hotel quarantine program.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) also updated its information on arrivals to Australia, writing the Commonwealth would seek to provide airlines with at least 48 hours’ notice to “minimise disruptions”.
However, the department added that it was up to airlines, not the government, to decide to who they sell tickets.
“This could affect your flight into Australia,” DFAT said in an update on Smartraveller.
“If you’re scheduled to fly home to Australia in the coming days and weeks, confirm your itinerary and onward travel plans with your airline or travel agent.”
Featured image source: iStock/stellalevi