The Federal Government will charter another 20 repatriation flights to bring home Australians stranded overseas.
The decision follows international air carrier Emirates’ move to suspend its flights to Australia’s east coast, frustrating desperate ex-Pats.
The flights will come from “priority areas” around the world, Acting Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Birmingham said on Saturday.
He said the absence of Emirates would not hinder the availability of flights and the newly arranged flights would be on top of the current traveller caps.
“The capacity that Emirates was able to use within the cap will be allocated to other airlines ensuring that there are still as many tickets into Australia after Emirates’ decision as there would have been beforehand,” Mr Birmingham said.
“There are other carriers here or elsewhere who will be able to bring Australians home using the seats that Emirates would have been able to fill previously.”
One new local case of coronavirus has been recorded in Sydney as Victoria looks to drastically reduce its “red zone” designations on the NSW and Queensland capitals.
A western Sydney man tested positive in the 24 hours to 8pm on Friday — ending a two-day streak of zero cases.
Authorities are still to link the case to a known cluster but believe it’s associated with the Berala bottle shop cluster.
“Relief is on its way so long as we maintain low or zero number of cases and have those testing rates high,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Friday.
Victoria and Queensland reported no new local cases on Saturday.
The lack of cases in Brisbane gave Victoria the confidence to drop Brisbane’s “traffic light” status to “orange” from Saturday evening.
It means Victorians will not need to apply for an exemption to return home.
South Australia also reduced the barriers for entry from greater Brisbane. From Sunday, entrants will no longer have to self-quarantine for 14 days but will have to be tested three times. Anyone arriving in SA from Brisbane from Thursday will not have to isolate or be tested.
Victorians stranded in Sydney may also be able return home without an exemption in coming days, with the state hoping to drop several Local Government areas to “orange”.
“There are clearly some Local Government areas within Greater Sydney that have now gone a number of days of cases without transmission,” Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said in Melbourne.
“I will look very intensively at the epidemiology across greater Sydney over the next couple of days.”
But the new western Sydney case may quash those hopes, and the wishes for restrictions on Sydneysiders being loosened.
NSW flagged changes were possible next week if testing rates exceeded 20,000, few new cases were reported and health advice allowed looser restrictions.
Just 14,547 tests in NSW were reported to 8pm on Friday – down on the previous day’s total of 16,070.
Australia’s only positive result outside hotel quarantine reported on Friday now appears to be a historical case after the Cairns man repeatedly tested negative.
“We are still waiting on the serology test results to be absolutely convinced, but I really do believe that that is a historical case,” Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said on Saturday.
Meanwhile, other states are continuing to ease border restrictions
Western Australia late on Friday assigned a “low risk” status to Victoria, which has now recorded nine days of no local transmission.
Victorians still need to self-quarantine for 14 days but, unlike residents from “medium risk” Queensland and NSW, will be able to enter WA without an exemption from Monday.
Travellers from Greater Brisbane arriving in South Australia from Sunday will not have to go into quarantine.