State lifts cap to help bring home Aussies stuck overseas
South Australia will lift its cap on international arrivals to 600 per week in a bid to help thousands of Australians stranded overseas come home.
The state's total hotel quarantine capacity will increase to 800, with 200 places set aside for people from "high-risk" states or as capacity for potential community outbreaks such as the Thebarton cluster.
The Federal Government is also pushing to lift Australia's total international arrivals cap from 4000 a week to 6000, but is still negotiating with some states to lock in new limits.
It comes after mounting concerns for more than 25,000 Australians stuck overseas trying to get home, with airlines warning it would take "well into 2021" to get them all back under current caps, which often limit passengers to 30 or less per flight.
Many people have been unable to get flights or have faced long delays, while others have been forced to fork out for business-class tickets.
"Many international airlines have been forced to stop selling tickets to Australians to return home until either late October or until December, including for flights out of the UK, because of the international passenger arrival caps," the Board of Airline Representatives of Australia said yesterday.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack wrote to state and territory leaders on Wednesday asking them to boost their intake to a total 6000 across the country.
"I want to make sure that more Australians can return home. There are some heart-wrenching stories," he said.
NSW, Queensland and Western Australia have each been asked to lift their caps by 500, while Mr McCormack said SA had agreed to lift its cap by about 360.
It caused some confusion that SA would boost its international arrivals cap to more than 800 people, as the state had agreed to a cap of 500 per week at national Cabinet in August.
The State Government clarified in a statement it had reduced its hotel quarantine allocation for international arrivals to about 240 per week and had allocated 260 beds for potential community outbreaks or arrivals from interstate due to the Thebarton outbreak and the situation in Victoria.
It said SA would "continue to look at options to further increase our medi-hotel capacity", which would mean adding more hotels.
Premier Steven Marshall said SA would "step up and take more Australians", increasing its hotel quarantine capacity from 500 to 800. "The full 500 hasn't been in the past utilised by the international returns," he told ABC radio.
Australian Border Force figures show fewer than 230 people arrived each week to SA from overseas for July and August, except for the first week of August when 354 arrived.
The cap was first imposed in July, when Victoria stopped taking international arrivals and other states raised concerns about pressure on their hotel quarantine systems as they took more arrivals.
Originally published as SA lifts cap to help bring home Aussies stuck overseas