Some 39,000 Australians stranded abroad due to the COVID-19 pandemic have registered to return home, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday, noting that the highest number of over 10,000 are from India.
Addressing a press briefing after holding the 32nd National Cabinet where leaders discussed Australia’s economic recovery after COVID-19, Morrison said over 45,950 Australian citizens have been repatriated since September 18 this year and almost 39,000 are still registered to return.
“The biggest area, the biggest number of people seeking to come home is from India. There are over 10,000 there. There are about 5,000 in the UK and there are a range of other countries. We are constantly monitoring that level of Australians who are seeking to come home,” he said.
“Our first priority is Australians returning home. But we will continue to monitor through contact directly with people overseas about the need to return home,” Morrison said.
“That (situation) may change over the next month. That may change as vaccines are introduced, particularly in the United Kingdom, which is one of the key areas where Australians are seeking to come home from,” he said.
At the Cabinet meeting, Morrison also discussed with leaders the COVID-19 response and the Australian COVID-19 Vaccination Policy.
When asked if Australians will be allowed to travel freely internationally for work and holidays once they’ve been vaccinated, Morrison said there were “still decisions to be taken”.
On the issue of international students returning back, Morrison said the federal government would first put its citizens and residents returning first, that is the priority for hotel quarantine in Australia.
“Of course we want to see a resumption of so many aspects of the services trade that Australia has international students as an important part of that. But they cannot come at the cost of Australian citizens, who have every right to return to their home country, particularly when we see around the world the greater distress that the rest of the world is,” he said.
There have been 28,011 confirmed cases in Australia and the death toll stood at 908.
Currently, there are around 50 active cases in the country, all in hotel quarantine and in the last one week there have been no cases of community transmission.