Australia will limit the number of travellers arriving into the country to a maximum 4,000 passengers per week "for the foreseeable future", Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced this afternoon.
Speaking after a meeting of the National Cabinet, Morrison said that beginning Monday July 13 there would be "a reduction in the number of inbound arrivals into Australia across those ports that are able to accept returning Australian citizens and residents... to ensure we can put focus on the resources needed to do testing and tracing."
"They will be cut by just over half across all the various ports that are taking those … residents returning to Australia."
Federal government figures show that across the past four weeks some 28,000 people entered Australia, most of whom arrived at Sydney and were then quarantined at the expense of the New South Wales government.
While admitting the cap "it will be more difficult" for some Australians still overseas to return home, Morrison said that he didn't believe the passenger cap "is surprising or unreasonable in the circumstance that we find ourselves in."
Melbourne has already halted all inbound passenger flights until at least July 15 to help combat a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases, although this is likely to be extended to late August now that the state is under a six-week 'second wave' lockdown.
Sydney subsequently instituted a cap of 50 inbound passengers per flight, and 450 inbound passengers across the whole day, due to concerns that an overflow of travellers on flights originally bound for Melbourne would strain the state's hotel quarantine budget, which has already exceeded $50 million to date.
This week, Western Australia said it would limit international arrivals to 75 passengers per day, and 525 per week, after three new cases recorded in WA were all from returned overseas travellers.
Morrison didn't detail how airlines would handle these passenger limits, although it's expected that some flights could be cancelled if the capacity ceiling makes them uneconomical.
User-pays for hotel isloation stays
The National Cabinet has also flagged moving the compulsory 14-day hotel quarantine periods away from being funded by each state towards to a user-pays system, as has already been done in Queensland, along with "a nationwide review of hotel quarantine."
Morrison previously remarked it would be "completely understandable" for returning travellers to start paying for their own hotel quarantine.
"There's been many opportunities for people to return. If they're choosing to do so now they've obviously delayed that decision for a period."
The Queensland government embraced the user-pays model as of July 1, contracting 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.