Nearly all of Australia’s states and territories have agreed in principle to develop a new plan to reopen the country by Christmas, following discussions at Friday’s National Cabinet meeting.
According to a media release circulated on Friday from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Western Australia is the only jurisdiction not to agree to the plan, which would see states and territories use the hotspot concept for travel between jurisdictions.
WA Premier Mark McGowan told the press he had made it clear his state would not be agreeing to a hotspot model or a hotspot definition which replaces “our successful border controls”.
“Western Australia has always avoided setting an arbitrary deadline on borders,” McGowan said. “A date will be set when our health advice recommends it, but that might be some time away.”
The news comes after the Prime Minister last week told Parliament that Australia’s states and territories should aim for COVID-19 restrictions to be eased in time for Christmas.
According to ABC News, McGowan said Prime Minister Morrison and other states and territories understood the decision, given WA’s “unique factors” and “the very positive direction our economy is heading”.
Morrison, who said he respected the path WA had decided to take, added that the three-stage plan to reopen borders, which originally aimed to be in force by July, would now aim to be in place by the end of the year in every jurisdiction except WA.
Tourism & Transport Forum CEO Margy Osmond said while it was disappointing WA had elected not to join the rest of Australia in endorsing the Christmas deadline, the tourism industry is “delighted” progress has been made on reopening in time for the summer school holidays.
“The rapid and piecemeal implementation of complex and inconsistent domestic border [sic] has been stifling our industry’s ability to recover, and we are pleased that almost every state and territory has adopted this new framework to provide some real hope for our sector’s future,” she said.
“The tourism industry now calls on each of the committed states and territories to rapidly progress an agreed national definition of a hotspot using the Commonwealth’s own definition as the logical starting point.”
According to the COVID-19 hotspot definition proposed by Commonwealth Acting Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly, the federal trigger for consideration in a metropolitan area is the rolling three-day average of 10 locally acquired cases per day, while the trigger for consideration of a COVID-19 hotspot in a rural or regional area is the rolling three-day average of three locally acquired cases per day.
International arrivals cap to be increased
National Cabinet conducted its fortnightly review of international air arrival passenger caps on Friday and agreed to boost the capacity for international arrivals where possible, supporting more Australians to come home from overseas.
It is unclear how high the cap will be raised. However, the national cap currently sits at just 4,000 arrivals per week – a figure established to ease pressure on Australia’s hotel quarantine system.
However, as many as 23,000 Australians are registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) seeking to return home.
“National Cabinet noted that NSW has been undertaking much of the heavy lifting in terms of quarantine of international arrivals,” Morrison said.
“All states and territories, where possible, agreed to work with the Commonwealth to increase the number of international flights to their jurisdiction to enable more Australians to return home.
“National Cabinet agreed the Commonwealth would work with airlines to identify opportunities to boost arrivals into cities with available quarantine capacity.”
National Cabinet will meet again on 18 September 2020.
Featured image source: iStock/beyhanyazar