Australia is to temporarily halve the number of international passengers allowed to enter the country each week, in a move designed to ease pressure on its hotel quarantine facilities.
The new restrictions will take effect from July 14 and run until August 31, 2021, and will see the international arrivals cap fall from around 6,000 passengers per week to just over 3,000.
The temporary cap will be split as follows:
- New South Wales – 215 per day
- Victoria – 500 arrivals per week
- Queensland – 500 arrivals per week, with additional surge capacity of 150 per week
- Western Australia – 265 per week
- South Australia – 265 per week
The Australian government said that the reduction was being implemented “to manage the pressure on quarantine facilities due to the increased risks posed by the Delta strain of the virus”.
International arrivals must currently quarantine at designated facilities for 14 days, although the government is planning to trial home quarantine exemptions for fully vaccinated returning travellers.
Around 34,000 Australians are currently understood to be looking to return to the country, with caps on international arrivals having been in place since last summer.
In addition to arrivals via scheduled airlines, the government has also been operating a number of charter services (mainly through Qantas) for returning citizens, with flights arriving into Howard Springs in the Northern Territory. It said that these would be increased in the coming weeks.
It remains to be seen if any of the carriers operating international scheduled services into Australia (currently Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates) opt to cut or suspend flights as a result of the new restrictions.
The Guardian quotes Barry Abrams, the executive director of the Board of Airline Representatives of Australia, as stating:
“It is going to be a very difficult situation for many airlines to maintain their frequency of flights to Australia. Many will be asking whether or not it makes more sense to suspend their passenger flights or just run cargo flights. I wouldn’t see it as cutting Australia off [but] I would see reduced connectivity and availability of flights to and from Australia.”