Andrews delivers travel ‘warning’ to PM
As Melbourne residents begin their six-week lockdown, the state government is scrambling to repair its bungled hotel quarantine system while juggling hundreds of active COVID-19 cases.
Corrections Victoria was tasked on June 30 to supervise a two-week reset of the quarantine program and international travellers returning from overseas have been diverted to other cities.
But as the end of that fortnight draws closer, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has raised a red flag.
"That reset can be done because we've got that pause, we've got that gap of a couple of weeks with no flights coming back to Melbourne," he told ABC's 7.30 on Wednesday night.
"We may need to take a little longer than that two-week period.
"I've written to the Prime Minister and asked him - or at least give him some warning - that that may be the position that we get to."
"Obviously we've got a lot to deal with at the moment with positive cases, contact tracing, all that other work," Mr Andrews said.
"I suppose the clearest point to make is - Corrections Victoria are in there now, and they're running it using the skills they have, and I think that's the most appropriate thing to do as we reset this program."
Mr Andrews said the justice department branch is "ultimately in charge now" under the direct supervision, command and control of Corrections Victoria Commissioner Emma Cassar.
Victoria recorded an additional 134 cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the state's active case total to 860 with 2942 recorded overall.
None of the new cases were detected in returned travellers in hotel quarantine.
However, seven of the eight new cases in NSW on Wednesday were returned travellers as were the two new cases recorded in Western Australia.
At least 56 per cent of Australia's cases, or 4973 infections, have been overseas acquired, according to federal health department data.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday warned Australian residents to brace for less flights home amid the growing number of COVID-19 cases being brought back into the country from returned travellers.
Earlier this week, the Federal Government agreed to cap overseas arrivals into Sydney Airport at 450 people per day, with no more than 50 people per plane.
Pressure was placed on Sydney's facilities after the Melbourne hotels stopped taking arrivals.
There’s now pressure on Sydney’s quarantine facilities following the 2 week suspension of international ✈️'s to #Melbourne. If you’re scheduled to fly into #Sydney in the coming weeks, confirm your travel plans with your airline as passenger limits on incoming flights will apply.— Smartraveller (@Smartraveller) July 3, 2020
Due to caps on international passenger # in some states, ✈️ home to 🇦🇺 may be diverted to another city or cancelled. You may also have to pay for quarantine. Check your travel plans with your airline or travel agent and follow state government for updates. #beinformed #beprepared— Smartraveller (@Smartraveller) July 7, 2020
"It is crucial that the volume of returning passengers not overrun the capacity of NSW Health to meet and assess every international passenger at Sydney Airport and not exhaust Health, Police and ADF resources to manage our quarantine hotels," NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.
Mr Morrison was asked at his press conference whether there was a case for slowing down the number of people into Australia at international airports, and if there was a problem with the "sheer load" of arrivals.
"The short answer to that is yes and I'll be taking a proposal to that end to National Cabinet on Friday," he said.
"I have been discussing that with Premiers over the last sort of 24 hours."
He said he received a plea from Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan on Tuesday to also cap international arrivals into Perth.
"The fact is that New South Wales has been bearing the largest burden of people returning to Australia and they're people - they're Queenslanders, they're Western Australians, they're Tasmanians - and New South Wales has done the heavy lifting on that and foot the bill for it," Mr Morrison said.
"In Victoria, we have suspended those flights coming in and that has meant that people have moved on to other flights going into other capitals and we have looked at that and as I said I'll be taking a proposal to National Cabinet to slow that down as of this Friday."
A separate judicial inquiry into the Victorian hotel quarantine system for returning travellers, headed by former Family Court judge Justice Jennifer Coate, is to deliver a report by September 25, 2020.
Originally published as Andrews delivers travel 'warning' to PM