Topics: Quarantine arrangements; Australians returning to Australia; Coronavirus case in the ACT.
Question: London is part of the Howard Springs quarantine arrangement. How many do you think you can get home to that facility across Australia, between now and Christmas?
Simon Birmingham: Well, these 161 Australians join almost 400,000 Australians who have safely and successfully returned since the start of the pandemic. And we will say many thousands more return over the coming months, including an additional 5000 as a result of opening up the Howard Springs Facility. And we’ll continue to work with the states and territories for them to increase their quarantine capabilities wherever it’s safe to do so.
Question: Obviously, a significant problem with that is the fact that Victoria is taking nothing at the moment. Are you still hopeful that they will be able to take some before the end of the year?
Simon Birmingham: The big problem came with the second wave occurring in Victoria in July and caps that were put in place across the country. The solution is coming from the fact that states and territories have lifted their numbers. We’ve opened the Howard Springs Facility to accommodate thousands. New Zealanders no longer filling up quarantine beds in Sydney, and ultimately, we hope to see Melbourne, Australia’s second largest entry port, traditionally, able to accommodate quarantine arrivals safely again into the future.
Question: By the end of the year?
Simon Birmingham: We would hope that’s the case. But let’s just make sure everything we do is done in a way that delivers safe circumstances for the community. We can all see the devastating impacts that occurred across Victoria and for the Australian economy as a result of quarantine failure in Melbourne. Nobody wants to see a repeat of that. So, we have to have confidence and of course, states and territories have to be confident that they can do the job properly.
Question: After more than 100 days, there’s now a case of coronavirus in the ACT. It turns out it’s the Vatican ambassador to Australia. Has the Australian Government advised the Vatican and the Pope, given the fact the ambassador was in contact with the Pope?
Simon Birmingham: Australia’s ambassador to the Holy See, has been advised of this case and, of course, has communicated appropriately with authorities there. There are established international protocols for all returning citizens to Australia, in quarantine circumstances, who may test positive, to make sure that we convey that back through those international channels and this case has been treated just like any other.
Question: Is it gold standard tracing to get back to the Vatican in time?
Simon Birmingham: In any circumstance, we’re making sure that the tracing is done in Australia and passed back to international channels and we will treat the Vatican and the Holy See exactly the same as we treat any other country in giving them advice that a returns the person in Australia has tested positive and that they should be aware of that for their own contact tracing purposes.