The national cabinet will discuss proposals to put a cap on the number of overseas Australian travellers returning home each day, a move that has incensed citizens who are working abroad.
After the systemic failure of Victoria’s hotel quarantine system, Prime Minister Scott Morrison suggested the federal government may have to reduce the number of people flowing through airports each day.
When asked if arrivals should be slowed, the PM said “the short answer to that is yes and I’ll be taking a proposal to that end to national cabinet on Friday”.
Nearly 40,000 people came through the state’s airports in the past month alone.
Victoria had the next highest total, with 15,000 passenger arrivals.
On Thursday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said her government was “seriously considering” asking Australian travellers returning home to pay for their hotel quarantine, and that she would “welcome” a lowering of the daily arrivals numbers, citing strain on state resources.
But Aussies living overseas have reacted angrily to any tightening of the arrivals cap and the proposal they have to pay for quarantine, calling the ideas “ridiculous”.
“It worries me for sure,” said Sam, a former Sydney resident who works in Los Angeles.
“Especially being in the US right now, where it is so uncertain with everything going on.”
Sam said she had no immediate plans to return to Australia, but said changing conditions in the United States – with more than three million COVID-19 cases – or a potential family emergency at home may force her to fly to Sydney at short notice.
“Because jobs are tied to insurance here, if I lost my job, I could lose my health insurance and essentially be stuck in a country during a pandemic with no proper coverage,” she said.
“I have a job so there is no need for me to move home as I have an income, an apartment and health insurance. But if something happened and things took a turn here, I might not have those things and might need to come home.
“It’s not that I’ve wasted time these last few months not getting my act together by moving home, it’s just that it is a weird time and circumstances can change.”
Jared, a journalist who moved to Berlin in February, said the proposed cap was “incredibly stressful”.
“For those returning home, the uncertainty over flights being cancelled last minute have just been magnified,” he said.
“As companies struggle to make money off a capped flight, it may mean that only those who can afford business tickets are guaranteed access to Australia.”
He also was upset at the suggestion people should pay for their quarantine because they had waited too long to return.
“People were trying to do what was right for them and Australia in returning when they were able to do so,” he said.
“It’s wrong to punish people for wrapping up their lives in a few months rather than days or weeks, especially when it was unclear at first how long COVID-19 would impact our lives.”
The national cabinet is due to meet on Friday morning, with Mr Morrison, state premiers and territory chief ministers to discuss the future of the hotel quarantine program and the escalating situation in Victoria.
The PM is expected to hold a press conference to announce details of the discussion later on Friday.