Staged rise for cap on overseas arrivals

The weekly cap on Australians returning from overseas will soon rise from 4000 to 6000.
The weekly cap on Australians returning from overseas will soon rise from 4000 to 6000.

More Australians stranded overseas will be able to return home each week after state governments agreed to a staggered rise in hotel quarantine caps.

The overall cap will rise from 4000 to 6000 after all states reach new limits over the next two weeks under a deal struck at Friday's national cabinet meeting.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison previously declared the number would rise next Friday but has now agreed to state demands for more time to beef up hotel quarantine systems.

"I want to enable as many Australians to get home as soon as possible and I want to do that safely," he told reporters in Sydney.

Australian Defence Force personnel will have an increased quarantine presence to help state authorities.

NSW will take an additional 500 people weekly from September 27, increasing the state's intake to about 3000 a week.

From the same date, Queensland and Western Australia will increase arrivals by 200.

Queensland will ramp up to 500 extra people a week on October 4, while WA will do the same one week after that.

Mr Morrison says there are about 24,000 Australians overseas who want to return home, with around 4000 considered to be vulnerable.

"Australians who are trying to get home at the moment are seeking to do that for many reasons, and particularly those more vulnerable, for circumstances completely outside their control," he said.

"It's not like they had an opportunity to come home early or anything like that."

Smaller states agreed to work with the federal government if it brings in chartered flights to bring people home.

The Howard Springs quarantine facility near Darwin may be brought back into action to quarantine arrivals from the emergency flights.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese criticised the prime minister for not taking greater responsibility for national borders with many Australians stranded in dire straits.

"The circumstance whereby you have a young mum with a one-year-old in London told to go and stay at a homeless shelter with her young baby is quite frankly absurd in 2020," he told reporters.

National cabinet also agreed on a new regime for domestic air travel, with all passengers required to provide their name, email, mobile number and home state.

Boarding school students will be allowed to cross state borders to visit home during school holidays under fresh medical advice.

Coronavirus contact tracing is also set for an improvement through a national digital overlay linking state systems.

This will allow tracing capabilities in states to be harnessed for use in other areas which may need improved capability.

National cabinet will not meet again until October 16, after the federal budget.

Victoria reported 45 new cases and five deaths, taking the national toll to 837.

NSW had six new cases.

ACT residents will be able to fly to Queensland from September 25, under a decision announced by the state government on Friday.

Australian Associated Press