The Federal Government has announced that will schedule another 20 repatriation flights to bring stranded Australians home, starting from the end of January.
The decision comes in the wake of the announcement by Emirates airlines that it has cancelled all flights into Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane until further notice.
Emirates decision after arrival caps halved
Dubai-based Emirates took the decision because the arrival caps in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia were temporarily halved to help states manage the flow of travellers potentially exposed to the UK strain of Covid-19, which is spreading globally.
In announcing that it was reducing the caps on the arrival of returning Australians, National Cabinet also imposed new in-flight and in-airport measures on passengers and aircrews.
Simon Birmingham, the Acting Foreign Minister, said the 20 flights would be from “priority areas” determined by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and would take place between January 31 and March 31.
Thousands of Australians stranded overseas
Thousands of Australians continue to be stranded overseas, including those with illnesses and other vulnerabilities, and have been struggling to return home due to the limited repatriation flights available and the stringent entry limitations imposed by the Federal Government.
According to the minister, the new repatriation flights will see the government create additional places for Australians to get home, over and above the current caps.
“We’ll work closely with authorities in those jurisdictions to make sure that it is all done with the strictest procedures and protocols to keep people safe,” he stated.
Opposition says mess is PM’s responsibility
Meanwhile, the Opposition has labelled the Emirates decision “devastating” and a consequence of the Government’s failure to take over responsibility for quarantining returned travellers.
“We wouldn’t be in this mess if Scott Morrison had done what is his responsibility; that is to deliver a safe national quarantine system. But he didn’t; he handballed it to the states and now Australians are paying the price,” spokesperson Penny Wong, said.
“We have nearly 40,000 Australians stranded overseas who have asked their country for help, who have asked their government for help and now they face an even more uncertain future as more and more flights dry up.”