Lawmakers will hold a National Cabinet meeting today to consider increasing the cap on international arrivals to Australia as thousands of a backlog of 38,000 citizens unable to make it home feel abandoned and betrayed.
State and territory leaders will consider an increase to the cap which was reduced in January through to 15 February to combat the arrival of infectious strains of COVID-19. The federal government believes that there may be leeway to increase the arrivals due to the longstanding promises of increased hotel quarantine capacity in Melbourne and Queensland’s success in preventing the spread of the super strain following the first known community transmission in Australia.
The prevention of the spread of the new strain of COVID-19 is attributed to the strict two-week hotel quarantine plan which has been pivotal in suppressing COVID-19, however caps have been in place to be able to ensure that the quarantine is implemented. In October, the Australian Human Rights Commission told Senate that the cap may be in breach of international laws on reuniting children with their families, adding that citizens cannot be excluded from their home.
Melbourne couple Steven and Kristy Lee Colakidis are struggling after a cancelled flight and strict quarantine following their daughter Samantha’s cancer treatment which has left them stranded in Los Angeles.
Samantha’s father Steve told Drive the pilot, a “three time cancer survivor himself”, helped haggle another flight.
He also criticised Australian Open players “having a whinge” about quarantine when thousands of Australians were stuck overseas.
Though reopening Australia’s border seems a long way off, an increase in caps my help bring home stranded citizens.
Emirates has announced the resumption of flights in and out of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane on 25 January, overturning the decision to cancel these a week earier.
In a statement, the airline said: “The pandemic has made international flying incredibly challenging, and the dynamic restrictions and requirements implemented by the different state authorities in Australia had added complexity and burden to our operations. This led us to temporarily suspend passenger services while we engaged with various stakeholders regarding crew protocols and other operational details.”
The airline also pointed to the government’s heightened restrictions which will be implemented today with new mask regulations requiring travellers on domestic flights and inside airports to wear a mask at all times and for travellers required to show a negative COVID-19 test from no more than 72 hours prior to boarding.
Emirates says the ramped up testing would be “an added burden” for their crew.
Today’s national cabinet meeting will also consider vaccine implementation planning and Queensland’s bid for new regional quarantine facilities.