Pressure on to get more Australians home

Pressure is on to get more stranded Australians home, with the quarantine capacity at a Northern Territory facility set to increase.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has confirmed the Howard Springs facility near Darwin will soon house 1000 returning Australians a fortnight, doubling the current capacity.

The easing of domestic borders has also opened up hotel quarantine places for international returnees.

Mr Hunt praised Australia’s efforts in containing the virus, pointing out the world has just marked a grim record of 12,000 lives lost in one day. 

“The outside world is not a safe place,” he told reporters in Canberra on Friday.

“As we head towards December and Christmas, there will be outbreaks inevitably in Australia whilst we’re in contact with a world that has more than half a million cases a day.”

It comes as a flight to Australia from San Francisco was cancelled overnight, leaving 30 people unsure of when they will make it home.

More than 36,000 people are registered to return to the country, with the foreign affairs department classifying 8070 as vulnerable.

Labor is urging the federal government to stop pointing the finger at state-run hotel quarantine and do more to help isolate arrivals.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended efforts to bring a growing number of Australians home, blaming hotel quarantine caps for the bulging list.

“We’ve organised almost 70 facilitated flights over the course of the year and we’re getting Australians home,” he told 4BC radio.

“But every time we get one home, we get another one extra who wants to come.”

Further repatriation plans are planned to depart Europe before Christmas.

More than 426,000 people have returned since Australia’s borders were closed in March, with 30,000 on government-facilitated flights.

Victoria has on Friday officially eliminated the virus after four weeks without a new case.

The state will on December 7 restart its hotel quarantine system, which was the source of the deadly outbreak that locked down Melbourne for months.

But the state government is confident the revamped program will be different to last time after intense scrutiny through a major inquiry.

South Australia’s cluster, which was sparked after hotel quarantine workers contracted the disease, has grown to 31 cases after a school student tested positive.

Tasmania is retaining a travel ban on SA but has opened to Victorians.

Telehealth will also be permanently subsidised through Medicare after initially starting as a pandemic measure.

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