More Australians stranded overseas able to return home with cap increased

The ACT will accept chartered flights bringing international arrivals to the territory as part of a plan to bring more Australians stranded overseas home.

Following Friday's National Cabinet, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said an agreement had been reached to increase the limits on international arrivals.

"We want to see Australians be able to get home," he said of the almost 25,000 Australians stuck overseas.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Karleen Minney

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Karleen Minney

While the heavy lifting would be done by Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, each a hub for commercial international arrivals, Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the ACT would assist how it could.

"The smaller jurisdictions, of which we are one, the ACT, Northern Territory and Tasmania will be able to take special cases, bespoke arrangements most likely to be charter flights rather than regular commercial passenger operations," Mr Barr said.

"We'll be gearing up to have that capability in place and [there will be] decisions for the incoming ACT government after the territory election as to exactly when those flights could commence."

Mr Barr said the earliest the flights could begin arriving would be late October or more likely November once processes for the newly elected government were complete.

"Prior to going into caretaker [period] I asked ACT officials to work with the Commonwealth to have in place a set of arrangements, to have a brief on the desk of the re-elected chief minister as soon as the assembly processes are complete," he said.

Mr Morrison announced that NSW will take an additional 500 arrivals per week from September 27.

Queensland and Western Australia will initially take an additional 200 arrivals per week from September 27. This will be increased to 500 arrivals per week from October 4 in Queensland and October 11 in Western Australia.

Mr Morrison promised the states would have support from the Commonwealth to manage the increased arrivals, including the defence force to manage quarantine needs.

Former secretary of the Health and Finance Departments Jan Halton has undertaken a review of Australia's quarantine systems which Mr Morrison said had returned very positive findings about the standards of quarantine around the country. These findings helped to justify the decision to increase international arrivals.

"We understand that, for the reasons of putting the strain on quarantine capacity, we had to limit the number of people that could come in on flights over the last couple of months," the Prime Minister said.

"But with the improvements and with the success that we've had as a country in recent months, we can start opening that up again and we can start helping Australians get home again."

Mr Morrison said the government was working towards allowing New Zealanders and Australians arriving from New Zealand into the country without hotel quarantine.

He said about 15 per cent of the Australians attempting to return home were in New Zealand and allowing them in without hotel quarantine would free up space for more returned travellers.

The Prime Minister also commended the ACT's home quarantine system for people entering the territory from Victoria. He said it was an option other jurisdictions could use for domestic travellers to free up space in hotel quarantine for Australians still overseas.

Another agreement from the National Cabinet meeting was to implement mandatory data collection on domestic flights which would assist contact tracing in the event of a positive case of coronavirus.

He said arrangements were being put in place between the government and airlines to collect the name, email address, a mobile contact number, and a state of residence of all travellers moving around Australia.

He said the National Cabinet had agreed testing rates needed to be improved and Western Australia was moving to introduce sewage testing.

NSW will introduce paid pandemic leave for those that have tested positive to coronavirus and Queensland is expected to follow suit shortly.

The telehealth program has been extended for a further six months to the end of March 2021 with a $2 billion commitment to the program.

Mr Morrison said this was particularly significant for mental health services.

The National Cabinet will next meet on October 16, skipping the meeting in a fortnight's time so the Commonwealth could focus on the October 6 budget.

This story ACT will accept charter flights for international arrivals first appeared on The Canberra Times.