NSW has made a major change to international arrivals allowed in and it’s bad news for those wanting to get back to Australia.
After criticising states including Queensland for cutting their caps on international arrivals, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said her state will halve its number of returned travellers.
The federal government has agreed to halve the number of overseas arrivals to NSW, with a new cap of 750 people allowed to return to Sydney each week until the state’s vaccination targets are met. The new cap will come into place from next week and is expected to remain until October.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian revealed the bad news for those overseas wanting to return to Australia but insisted she hoped all Australians would be allowed to return by Christmas.
For that to happen though vaccination rates need to reach 80 per cent. NSW is expected to reach its first target of 70 per cent of people fully vaccinated in mid-October.
“While 70 per cent double dose gives those of us vaccinated freedoms, 80 per cent double dose allows us to look at international travel, welcoming home all Australians,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“How wonderful would it be to welcome back all Aussies who want to be reunited with their families by Christmas and NSW will step up to support that cause and that case and I stress to everybody the importance of vaccination.”
There are currently 13 passenger flights and 18 freight flights landing at Sydney Airport each day. NSW international arrivals were cut from about 3000 to 1505 per week last month in line with a reduction in caps around the country.
“I think we’ve been offered to go down to half what we have now, which is what we’ve accepted for the next month. So, we’re doing half of our current international arrivals,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“But obviously, we’re hoping to pick that back up once we get to those high rates of vaccinations.”
Board of Airline Representatives of Australia chief Barry Abrams told the Australian Financial Review that any cut to passenger caps caused anguish among stranded Australians and left airlines scrambling to rearrange capacity.
“Ultimately, halving the already very small numbers into Sydney, down to about 107 passengers per day, does not mean anything in terms of the financial viability of flights. It will, however, cause stress and grief for passengers who are now going to get bumped,” he said.
The NSW outbreak, which had seen 21,108 cases as of Tuesday, was sparked by a maskless, unvaccinated Sydney limousine driver who was believed to have been infected by a foreign aircrew he chauffeured to a hotel.
Under the national reopening plan, based on the modelling from the Doherty Institute, returned traveller intake can return to normal levels once 70 per cent of over-16s are fully vaccinated. For NSW, this would be 3000 people per week.
Prime Minister Scott Morrisons has said Australians will only be allowed to go overseas once 80 per cent of over-16s are fully vaccinated and has no said the fully vaccinated can then quarantine from home to help relieve the pressure on hotels.
Aussies have been banned from leaving the country for holidays since March 2020 and anyone returning must pay up to $2800 for two weeks of hotel quarantine.
On current rates, the government expects to reach that target by mid-November, though overseas experience indicates rates of vaccination slow and plateau past 60 per cent when the supply of people eager to get jabbed is gone and all that’s left are the reluctant and ambivalent.
Arrivals could be allowed to quarantine at home for seven days or enter without any quarantine at all if coming from a highly vaccinated travel bubble country like the US, UK and Singapore.
“I share people’s frustration about that but what’s the answer? We need to move to home quarantine,” he said. “The answer for quarantine going forward is actually home quarantine for Australians and to the extent that we continue to have quarantine going forward then what we need is for that to be for international travellers.
In early July Mr Morrison said that home quarantine should be safer than hotel quarantine because it requires no interaction with staff, but does carry the risk of people not observing it.