International arrivals into Australia to be slashed in half

International arrivals into Australia to be slashed in half

From Monday, 4,000 fewer people will be reentering Australia each week as the Prime Minister caps international arrivals by half.

In addition, those returning may have to pay for their own stays in hotel quarantine to reduce the financial burden on Australian states and territories.

"Some states already have it, some states are moving towards it, and I will leave that to them to make the announcements at the appropriate time," says Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

The plan is to have national uniformity across pricings of hotel quarantine for returning residents and citizens.

A hotel quarantine program review will be undertaken by the former health secretary Jane Halton, which Morrison says will look into how hotel quarantine is being managed in each state and territory.

"This is an important step in providing reassurance and making sure that as we look into each of the states and territories and how they're managing their quarantine that is meeting the standards that the AHPPC had advised upon," says Morrison.

"And as our country opens up again, with the exception of Victoria, that we can ensure we've had even greater confidence in those quarantine arrangements."

Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly says the review will look into hotel quarantine programs around the country in more detail.

"Various states have done their own internal reviews, and just to be clear that the quarantine is with the states, but this is just a way of looking at that quarantine in a more detailed fashion," says Kelly.

"To be clear there have been a lot of people that have come into hotel quarantine, there have been very few breaches, but we've seen, as has been reported in Victoria, a single breach, even it it's low risk, can lead to catastrophic outcomes.

"So we absolutely need to know that this is working as best as it can."

Morrison says the review will look at number of areas including:

  • Into infection prevention control training for clinical hotel and security staff;
  • Compliance with infection prevention and control requirements of security staff;
  • Evidence of community cases attributed to international travellers in hotel quarantine including cases in hotel and security staff;
  • Rates of compliance with testing;
  • A legislative or contractual basis for mandatory testing;
  • Management of suspected or confirmed cases;
  • Provision and effectiveness of support services;
  • Medical, mental health, social services and financial support;
  • Management of vulnerable people;
  • Management of cultural diveristy;
  • Logistic arrangements;
  • Administrative arrangements; and
  • Changing capacity requirements to changes in border restrictions.

In a sign of things to come, the Prime Minsiter will be having a discussion this afternoon with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern about the proposed Trans-Tasman Safe Travel Zone, but there is no imminent starting date in the works just yet.

"There is still a lot more work to be done to get to a point of having a trans-Tasman safe travel zone," Morrison said.
"We discussed that today at National Cabinet about what states and territories could or would participate in that so there is a bit more work to do there, obviously the Victorian situation, although it is isolated from the rest of the country's seven states and territories, would be potentially in a position to be involved in that.
"We will hear further from the New Zealanders. It is an issue of interest in terms of how we can engage again with the rest of the world, but I think we will have to be very patient about that."

Professor Kelly was also asked about the current advice on wearing masks in Victoria. He says Melburnians should remain at home where possible, but if they do need to go into public it would be a good idea to wear a mask.

"The advice is for places where there is ongoing community transmission, so this for the moment is greater Melbourne and the Mitchell shire, is that the overarching advice is people should stay at home unless they need to go out," says Kelly.  

"Assuming that people do need to go out, what has not changed is if people have symptoms and they need to go for a test, for example, which we would definitely encourage, they should wear a mask.
"Other people, where physical distancing cannot be guaranteed, they should also wear a mask in Melbourne and Mitchell shire."

Updated at 1:26pm AEST on 10 July 2020.

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