Vulnerable Australians stranded overseas will be prioritized for new return flights home.
Scott Morrison announced Friday that Australia’s hotel quarantine capacity will be increased by the Northern Territory’s Howard Springs facility to be used for returning Australians.
The prime minister said this would allow up to 5,000 quarantine sites by the end of March 2021.
Mr Morrison will meet with NT Chief Secretary Michael Gunner at Kirribilli House on Friday afternoon to discuss the deal.
“This agreement is intended to complement the more important agreements we have made to continually raise the limits at our main ports of entry into Australia,” he said.
“This additional facility that is initially used to accommodate groups as assisted flights operate from three locations.
“First outside the UK, but flights are also being arranged from India and South Africa.”
Mr Morrison said Qantas has a priority list of vulnerable passengers in the UK who will be given the first opportunity to purchase seats on those flights.
Approximately 750 out of 4,000 Australians classified as vulnerable have returned to Australia.
The eight Qantas Dreamliner flights, which are operated on a cost recovery basis, provide a way home for up to 1,315 people stuck abroad.
Four return flights are operated from New Delhi, three from London and Johannesburg.
One-way economy fares are $ 2,150 from London, $ 1,750 from Johannesburg, and $ 1,500 from New Delhi.
“We are making very good progress to ensure that more Australians come home,” said Morrison.
The eight return flights are excluded from the weekly limit of 5,000 international arrivals.
Passengers arriving from South Africa will not be quarantined at Howard Springs.
People from the UK and India who do this will be charged $ 2500 for hotel quarantine, while families will pay $ 5000.
Earlier on Friday, opposition leader Anthony Albanese said his party had asked two months ago that Howard Springs be used to quarantine returning Australians.
“When it comes to Howard Springs, why hasn’t the government acted before?” Mr. Albanese said.
“The Prime Minister is clearly responsible for our national borders, he is clearly responsible for quarantine and he is clearly responsible for keeping 29,000 Australians stranded overseas.”
Mr Albanese also raised concerns about Mr Morrison’s inability to return to the National Cabinet on Friday.
“The Prime Minister does not have access to an airplane, there is a whole VIP fleet,” he said.
But Mr Morrison said a new plane couldn’t have arrived any earlier than Friday morning.
The National Security Committee also met to discuss a traffic light system for travel to different countries.
This also allows for the isolation of companies returning from different parts of the world.
“As much as our top priority is getting Australians home when it comes to taking advantage of these quarantine arrangements, our other priority is getting Australia back to a safe level to connect with the rest of the world … in areas such as students and business travelers in Australia, “said Mr. Morrison.
He also announced that the Office of National Intelligence’s director general Nick Warner will retire in December.
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