Defiant Aussie travellers ‘should pay own quarantine costs’
Nearly 16,000 Australians who chose to ignore the government's warnings not to travel overseas as COVID-19 spread could be forced to pay for their own quarantine costs.
In the two weeks after Prime Minister Scott Morrison implored people not to leave the country in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, about 16,000 Australians flew out of the country.
The Australian reports they flew overseas March 19 and 30 even though the Prime Minister gave a very clear instruction to "not travel abroad" on March 18.
This included 3800 Australians who hopped on planes for foreign destinations from March 25-30 after an official ban on all overseas travel came into force on March 24.
Angry state leaders now want the people who ignored the official advice to pay for their own quarantine hotel rooms.
West Australian Premier Mark McGowan led the call, hitting out at "irresponsible" citizens who flew out to Bali, Thailand and the UK in the past fortnight.
On their return to Australia, these people must now stay in empty five-star hotels for two weeks of quarantine - at the cost of state governments.
State treasurers have to split the substantial costs of the quarantine accommodation, with many passengers being put up in empty five-star hotels in Australia's capital cities.
Each state will pay for their own residents' quarantine, easing pressure on NSW which is housing most of the international arrivals in Sydney.
Former immigration minister Amanda Vanstone said it would be reasonable for the government to charge a levy for returned holiday-makers' quarantine.
"I am amazed that people with the knowledge in hand with what was happening in China and Italy would nonetheless choose to ignore advice and travel," Ms Vanstone said.
"The government is trying to help you by saying 'watch out'. For people who are travelling for work or sensible compassionate reasons, that's another matter."
The 3800 Australian citizens who left the country during the travel ban required a government exemption, which can be granted if they ordinarily live overseas, have essential work abroad or there are compassionate grounds.
The remaining 12,200 Australians flew overseas in a six-day period without needing an exemption and while knowing Mr Morrison had urged against overseas travel.
In the weeks before they suspended international flights altogether, Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia were operating about 50 services a day out of the country to the US, New Zealand, Indonesia and Pacific Islands such as Fiji.
Qantas also maintained a reduced schedule of flights to Tokyo and Hong Kong and continued to fly to London - one of the few routes where demand was reported to be strong.
Although evaporating demand was hurting most airlines, Virgin Australia, which stopped international flights on Monday, revealed a handful of routes were still attracting passengers, including Brisbane and Sydney to Los Angeles, Brisbane and Sydney to Bali and Brisbane to Nadi, Fiji.
Along with London, Qantas continued to see steady interest in its US flights although a spokesman said it was unaware if the passengers were Americans returning home or Australians.
Qantas stopped flying internationally on Sunday and Jetstar's last flight out of the country was a return Melbourne-Bali service on March 26.
The Australian reported that while 40,000 people were arriving daily in Australia's airports a few weeks ago, by March 24 that number had plummeted to 13,665.
Originally published as Defiant Aussie travellers 'should pay own quarantine costs'