International travellers flying into Sydney from Saturday July 18 will pay upwards of $3,000 for their mandatory two-week stay in hotel quarantine, as NSW joins Queensland in moving from a state-pays to a user-pays system.
Other states are expected to follow as they shift the multi-million dollar burden away from coffers which have already been strained by the economic impact of the coronavirus.
Australia enacted a compulsory 14-day isolation period for all inbound passengers as of March 29, with travellers escorted by Australian Border Force staff to a Government-nominated hotel at their point of entry into the country.
However, following the capping of inbound flights to 4,000 passengers per week, the National Cabinet has given the go-ahead for states and territories to send the hotel quarantine bill to travellers rather than taxpayers.
Sydney Airport remains Australia's primary gateway, accounting for more than two-thirds of arrivals, which has meant NSW has carried the greatest share of the fiscal load over the past three months.
That burden has increased following Melbourne's recent decision to suspend all inbound passenger flights, with estimates that the NSW government's bill for quarantine accommodation to date is approaching the $20 million mark.
"Australian residents have been given plenty of time to return home, and we feel it is only fair that they cover some of the costs of their hotel accommodation," said NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian in announcing the charges.
As of Saturday July 18, all inbound travellers will be charged the following rates for their 14-day hotel quarantine:
- $3,000 for one adult
- $1,000 for each additional adult
- $500 for each child aged three and over (children under three years will stay free of charge)
Those prices include meals, although the government will still pick up the cheque for transport to the hotel, security and logistics.
Travellers will be handed the bill when they leave quarantine, with payment due within 30 days, although a hardship scheme will be available to help people facing financial difficulties.
There'll be an exception made for travellers who booked their flight before 11.59pm on July 12, regardless of when that flight is, who will not be charged for the hotel quarantine stay.
Queensland introduced a user-pays scheme on July 1, having contracted a package deal with hotels across the state at $135 per room, with up to two adults and children allowed in a single room. Adults are charged $65 per person per day for meals, with children's meals at half price.
That pegs the total cost for 14 days at $2,800 for a solo traveller, $3,710 for a couple, $4,165 for two adults with one child and $4,620 for a family of four.