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COVID-19: Calls to allow more Australians to return – State quarantine hotel capacity to be increased

COVID-19: Calls to allow more Australians to return – State quarantine hotel capacity to be increased

Everyone from Alan Joyce, Qantas Group CEO, to the Transport Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack is asking that border restrictions be lifted or toned down.

State borders

Alan Joyce has started a petition! He wants state borders open as soon as possible and has already garnered support from Virgin boss Paul Scurrah. The whiff of self interest is almost undetectable!

South Australia (SA) and Queensland – who have maintained a hard line, look like they are softening, with Steven Marshall, Premier of SA allowing Canberrans to enter by plane from the national capital as of midnight last Tuesday. His police commissioner has also suggested that lifting the border ban to NSW might be on the cards soonish – depending on their ability to have a run of days without community transmission.

Even Queensland is making noises about reducing its hardline policy about the border between it and New South Wales. Western Australia seems like the only holdout on state border openings.

I noted earlier this week that Qantas is scheduling 4 return Jetstar flights a day between Sydney and Adelaide from October 1st.

Adelaide Airport

Australians returning

No-one is talking about removing the ban on most Australians travelling overseas, although that rule doesn’t apply if you are an ex-prime minister wanting to address a conservative think tank in London. I’m talking about you Tony Abbott, the well know misogynist.

The Transport Minister and Deputy PM is asking the states to up their quarantine hotel capacity to allow an increase in weekly arrivals from 4,000 to 6,000 Australians who want to return.

Reportedly there are 20,000 Australians registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade expressing their interest in returning to Australia, but are having their airline bookings cancelled because of the states capacity limitations on those entering from overseas.

McCormack has already gained the agreement of NSW to take in another 500 per week, with South Australia agreeing to an additional 360. He would like to see Queensland take in an extra 500 via Coolangatta and Cairns. He’s also looking at Tasmania, Northern Territory and the ACT. Can Hobart in Tasmania even take international flights? Apparently it can.

Current Limits

State governments have applied the following limits, with some calling for or agreeing to changes already:

  • Sydney = 3,000 per week
  • Perth = 525 per week
  • Brisbane = 500 per week
  • Melbourne = 0 for the moment
  • Adelaide = 500 per week (there is a pilot program for international students of 300 per week)

The opposition spokesperson Kristina Keneally is calling for the Gold Coast, Darwin and Canberra to be used, given they have international airports and hotel capacity, and Darwin even has a quarantine facility nearby.

2PAXfly Takeout

There seems to be an undercurrent that might provoke policy movement here. The media is consistently leading with deeply personal stories of the deleterious affects of the border closures – loved ones ignored, funerals missed, vital medical treatment unobtainable, and politicians and the public are sensitive to these emotional tales.

Australians up until now have been extremely supportive of both state and international border closures. We are now six months in to these restrictions, and I think Australians are now edging towards impatience. Most politicians will want to avoid a large scale voter revolt.

On the international front, 20,000 is a lot of voters to piss off. I think we will see movement on returning Australian restrictions very soon.

On the border closures to Australians wanting to travel out of Australia – I wouldn’t expect a change anytime soon, and I think Alan Joyce’s prediction of July 2021 or when a vaccine is available is probably on the money.

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