Prime Minister Scott Morrison is adamant he won’t let COVID positive Aussies back in the country. The Prime Minister says calls to allow Australians with the virus on flights back from India don’t make sense. Mr. Morrison was quizzed on international border closures and the India repatriation situation in Queensland today.
Passengers hoping to receive a seat home on repatriation flights must undergo testing before takeoff. On Friday, more than 40 people from India to Darwin tested positive, and about 30 of their close contacts were barred from returning. Mr. Morrison said the government would not allow the virus to be imported on flights into Australia.
“I’ve seen the suggestions from others that, who seem to think we can put people who’ve tested COVID positive on planes and bring them to Australia,” Mr. Morrison said. “I mean, that just doesn’t make any sense. “I, we all want to support people as much as we can, but by importing COVID into the country, I don’t think that’s a very sensible or sound thing to do.”
Labor leader Anthony Albanese earlier today said Australians who had caught COVID while stranded in India had the government to blame because it had not acted sooner to bring them home. At least three Aussies who were barred from returning from India after testing positive for the virus later tested negative, raising concerns over the repatriation testing regime.
Only about 80 people made it back of the 150 passengers planned to return. They are now in quarantine in the Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory after landing on Saturday. Mr. Morrison said the government would work closely with Qantas which is conducting the testing regime. “They’ll get every support from us. But it is a challenging environment to operate in at the moment,” he said.
“I’m pleased that we’ve been able to get 80 people home already. I hope we, and intend for us, to get even more home in the other repatriation commercially facilitated flights in the weeks ahead, more going into Howard Springs, where we’re expanding capacity.
Mr. Morrison said the government was looking at quarantine proposals from the Victorian Government. “Making sure we have a rigorous testing regime is very important,” he said. “This sort of testing is required from all places where people are coming from into Australia, whether it’s the UK or elsewhere.
And, of course, it’s essential in India. We’ve seen those high testing rates, and that’s frankly why we took the action we did because the risk was very, very high.” Mr Morrison said Australia was “still many months away” from being able to allow travel to safe countries without a strict quarantine system.
“We are always working on the next step, and the next step is how we can safely have international students come back,” he said. “I welcome the fact that universities are stumping up to work with state governments to put those facilities in place to support those customers coming back, the students coming back.”