The number of passengers arriving from India could be cut even further if the world’s worst COVID-19 outbreak continues to run out of control.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday revealed arrivals from India would be slashed by a third, while travel the other way will be banned except in “very urgent circumstances”.
India recorded 314,835 cases on Thursday, the worst single-day case increase in any country since the pandemic began.
Direct flights from the country land in Sydney and the Northern Territory, and Mr Morrison said the federal government would work with the states and territory leaders to strengthen the measures if necessary.
“If the state government wants to do more than that, we will work with them to that end,” he told reporters on Friday.
“If we need to go further (in the Northern Territory), they’re the discussions I’m having directly with Chief Minister Gunner.
“We’re all working on the same page there.”
COVID-19 cases in Australia’s hotel quarantine system linked to India have jumped from 10 per cent to 40 per cent since January.
Anyone who has been in India within the last 14 days will also be required to undertake a PCR COVID-19 test 72 hours before boarding in their last port of call before departing for Australia.
“That will put a brake, a filter, on those who are getting on the flights,” Mr Morrison said.
“It’s not a simple matter of just saying people from India can’t come to Australia because they are not coming directly from India.”
Mr Morrison said the measures had been unanimously agreed by national cabinet.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese accepted health advice underpinned the decision but said the outbreak in India showed an urgent need for the government to get its vaccine rollout back on track.
“It just shows as well, given that the situation in India had been improving prior to the latest outbreak, that we can’t be complacent,” he said on Friday.
“It is one of the reasons why we need vaccinations to occur and for Scott Morrison to do it properly.”
But the Prime Minister revealed there had only been a slight increase in cases in hotel quarantine despite the outbreak in India, which has been listed as ‘high risk’ by the federal government.
He predicted on Thursday that list would expand in the coming days.
“We need to put in place the risk management that protects it going over the next few weeks and the pandemic is raging around the world,” he said.
“I don’t expect this to be the last time when we have to make such a decision.”