Vulnerable Australians stranded overseas will be prioritised for new repatriation flights home.
Eight Qantas flights out of the UK, India and South Africa will be underwritten by the federal government.
Scott Morrison on Friday announced that Australia’s hotel quarantine capacity will be boosted with Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory to be used for returning Australians.
The Prime Minister said this would enable up to 5000 quarantine places until the end of March, 2021.
Mr Morrison will meet with NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner at Kirribilli House on Friday afternoon to discuss the deal.
“This arrangement is intended to supplement the more significant arrangements that we have in continually lifting the caps at our major ports of entry into Australia,” he said.
“This additional facility, which initially, will be used to take in groups as a result of supported flights coming out of three locations.
“Firstly, out of the United Kingdom but there are also flights being arranged out of India and out of South Africa.”
Mr Morrison said Qantas has a priority list of vulnerable passengers who are in the UK that will get the first opportunity to purchase seats on those flights.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the new quarantine facility on Friday. NCA NewsWire / Sarah MarshallSource:News Corp Australia
About a quarter of 4100 Australians deemed vulnerable have returned to Australia.
The eight Qantas Dreamliner flights, operated on a cost-recovery basis, will provide a way home for up to 1315 people stuck overseas.
Four return services will operate from New Dehli, three from London and from Johannesburg.
The one-way economy fares cost $2150 from London, $1750 from Johannesburg and $1500 from New Delhi.
“The first two flights will depart London on 22 October and New Delhi on 26 October,” Mr Morrison said, adding each flight would carry 175 passengers.
“We’re making very good progress on ensuring that more and more Australians are getting home,” Mr Morrison said.
The eight repatriation flights are excluded from the 5000 weekly international arrivals cap.
Passengers arriving from South Africa will not quarantine at Howard Springs.
However, individuals from the UK and India that do will be charged $2500 for hotel quarantine while families will pay $5000.
More than 29,000 Australians overseas have registered their intent to return.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said planes were available and hotel rooms are empty. “It’s not rocket science,” he said. Picture: NCA NewsWire / James GourleySource:News Corp Australia
Earlier on Friday, Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said his party called for Howard Springs to be used for quarantining returning Australians two months ago.
“When it comes to Howard Springs, why is it that the Government hasn’t acted previously?” Mr Albanese said.
“The Prime Minister is clearly responsible for our national borders, he’s clearly responsible for quarantine, and he’s clearly responsible for the fact that 29,000 Australians remain stranded overseas.”
Mr Albanese also raised concerns about Mr Morrison’s inability to get back for National Cabinet on Friday.
“The Prime Minister doesn’t have access to one plane, there’s a whole VIP fleet,” he said.
But Mr Morrison said a new plane could not have arrived earlier than Friday morning.
The National Security Committee also met to discuss a traffic light system for travel to different countries.
This will also allow for home isolation for corporates returning from various parts of the world.
“As much as getting Australians home is our top priority when it comes to utilising these quarantine arrangements, our other priority is to get Australia back to a safe level of engaging with the rest of the world … in areas like students and business visitors to Australia,” Mr Morrison said.
He also announced that the Director-General of the Office of National Intelligence, Nick Warner, will retire in December.
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