Australians trapped abroad will have to wait at least mid-next month for further immigration restrictions to be lifted.
The National Cabinet meeting on Friday failed to produce concrete results, with continued anxiety over new strains of coronavirus that could escape hotel quarantine.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said leaders are sticking to plans to maintain half of the international arrival limit until February 15.
“We must put public health and security first within our borders,” he told reporters in Brisbane.
The list has grown steadily as the virus hits most of the world, with 38,000 Australians seeking return.
Morrison said the government has returned 79,000 people since September, exceeding the government’s expectations.
He welcomed Emirates’ decision to resume flights to Australia next week after hundreds of people got stuck in a sudden cancellation.
“These flights also carry important supplies. These aviation services involve freight and arrive at major capitals,” Morrison said.
The Cabinet has been briefed on a new travel protocol that requires testing and masking on all flights entering Australia.
Passengers are required to display evidence of a negative result from a coronavirus test performed within 3 days of the scheduled departure.
Queensland was planning to propose in the national cabinet to move the quarantine from the capital hotel to a remote mining camp.
However, the issue was only briefly mentioned, and Prime Minister and Prime Minister Anastasia Parasek were scheduled to discuss it at a one-on-one meeting in Brisbane later Friday.
Morrison chilled his ideas during the week after meeting with locals in Gladstone near a moored quarantine facility in Queensland’s central hub.
“The hotel’s quarantine system remains very important for getting Australians home,” he said.
“It has proven to be very effective, especially if there are other facilities we could install, such as the Northern Territory.”
He reiterated local concerns about the potential impact on the mining industry with the enormous amount of maintenance work scheduled for the next 12 months.
“We need to carefully consider the potential impact of such a community.”
Labor Deputy Leader Richard Marles said quarantine is the responsibility of the federal government under the Constitution.
“Why didn’t the federal government actually come up with a plan to have quarantine arrangements nationwide so that stuck Australians could go home?” He told Nine Network.
Interior Minister Peter Dutton is concerned that fly-in and fly-out workers coming to Gladstone could be exposed to the coronavirus and infect other parts of the country.
“People in Gladstone are wondering why they need a quarantine facility in their backyard,” he told Nine.
Australians must be at least 1.5 meters away from others. Check the jurisdiction limits for collecting limits. If you have a cold or flu symptoms, stay home and call your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline 1800 020 080 to arrange a test. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.
Check out guidelines related to states or territories such as New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory, ACT, Tasmania.