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Australia will temporarily reduce international arrivals by half, Scott Morrison announced.
A statement from the Prime Minister’s office said that National Cabinet met today to discuss Australia’s COVID-19 response, the Australian COVID-19 Vaccination Policy and management of Australia’s borders in the context of the emergence of new variants.
The National Cabinet, which was established in response to the pandemic, was not due to meet again until February. However, state premiers and authorities called for an earlier meeting amid growing concerns over the UK strain of the virus.
Halving the cap on international arrivals means 4,000 fewer people will be allowed into the country each week.
Following are the international travel guidelines laid down by National Cabinet:
- Returning Australians and other travellers to Australia must return a negative COVID-19 test prior to departure. Exemptions will only be applied in extenuating circumstances, such as seasonal workers where there is limited access to testing.
- Air crew must take a COVID-19 test every 7 days or on arrival in Australia, continue to quarantine in dedicated quarantine facilities between international flights or for 14 days, and not reposition for an outgoing international flight unless they do so on a crew-only flight.
- All passengers and air crew must wear masks on flights and in airports.
- Airlines will continue to have appropriate infection prevention and control measures on board aircraft, including crew wearing personal protective equipment where appropriate.
International arrivals will now have a weekly cap of 1505 in NSW; in Western Australia it will be 512 and in Queensland, arrivals will be capped at 500, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Current international passenger caps in Victoria and South Australia and arrangements in the Northern Territory are considered manageable and will remain in place.
“The decision that we took to reduce the number of returned travellers to Australia was to ensure we could put our focus on the resources needed to do the testing and tracing,” he stated.
International arrivals will be affected by the change from next week. Moreover, arrangements on international passenger caps will be reviewed by National Cabinet in early February.
“There will be capacity for people to return to Australia, as there has been for many months,” the Prime Minister said.
He added that the decision to cut international arrivals was neither “surprising or unreasonable” and national cabinet had to put “the national interest, and the health of Australia and Australians first”.
National Cabinet also agreed that the national standard for any worker involved in quarantine arrangements (transport, cleaners etc) will be to have daily COVID-19 tests, with jurisdictions to work towards meeting this standard as soon as possible.
As for domestic travel, all passengers, excluding children 12 and under or those with particular exemptions, and air crew must wear masks on flights and in airports.
Additionally, the Morrison government also brought forward the distribution of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines in Australia to mid-to-late February.
Frontline workers such as health professionals, aged care workers, hotel quarantine staff, border enforcement, and residents of aged and disability care are described as among the first groups to receive the vaccine.
So far, there have been 28,571 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia and, 909 people have died. Currently, there are 41 people in hospital and more than 11.8 million tests have been undertaken in Australia.