International arrivals cap will not be raised: Morrison

Bucking pressure to lift the number of international arrivals, today's national cabinet meeting of chief ministers and premiers has held the current cap in place.

Australia had been successful in avoiding a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said following Friday's meeting.

Mr Morrison thanked Australians for complying with lockdown restrictions put in place by state and territory governments, and said he could consider raising the cap next week.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Karleen Minney

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Karleen Minney

"I will review the arrangements as they relate to the passenger caps coming to airports we've made no changes there," Mr Morrison said.

"Those arrangements go back to the earliest sittings on the 15th of February, but there is the opportunity for me to engage with individual states and territories on a bilateral basis."

Mr Morrison confirmed that 78,876 Australians had been able to return to Australia since the national cabinet agreed to make returns a priority in September last year, and more than $20 million had been paid out of a special hardship fund for Australians overseas and unable to get home.

The national cabinet had asked for advice on a mandatory vaccine requirement for professions who work with vulnerable groups, such as aged care workers. The peak body of government health advisors has not recommended a mandatory requirement at this stage, Mr Morrison confirmed.

The prime minister could not answer how many doses of the Pfizer vaccine would be in Australia by mid-February, when the first rollout was expected to begin, but noted that demands for doses from Europe was larger than expected.

"There is no doubt in the discussions I had with European prime ministers, and others, earlier in the week that there are some difficulties that they're encountering," Mr Morrison said. "We're watching that very closely. We're able to provide as much update as possible today to the premiers and chief ministers. They know what we know. There are some things in our control and some things that are not."

Mr Morrison cautioned that the rollout would start small "before moving to a much greater scale".

There was no news from national cabinet on the approval status of any of the vaccines, which would be rolled out in stages with priority groups receiving the Pfizer vaccine first followed by other groups receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.

There were 92 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Australia in the past seven days, and 91 per cent of those were overseas arrivals in hotel quarantine.

There are now 186 active cases around Australia, confirmed Professor Michael Kidd, the acting Chief Medical Officer, down from 296 last week.

Professor Kidd said Australia had had five days with no new cases of community transmission of the virus.

Globally the world milestone of 2 million deaths linked to the virus was passed this week, he noted.

Mr Morrison noted the speculation about the Tokyo Olympics being cancelled, but could not confirm anything official.

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This story International arrivals cap will not be raised: Morrison first appeared on The Canberra Times.


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