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London: Prime Minister Scott Morrison has thanked expats around the world for their sacrifice and for the first time has acknowledged the heartbreak and frustration they have suffered being locked out of Australia.
In a pre-recorded message at an awards ceremony, Mr Morrison promised that home quarantine would be the norm by the end of the year, opening up the prospect of families with members overseas being able to reunite at home for their first Christmas since the pandemic.
His message was delivered at professional network Advance’s annual awards ceremony recognising Australians who excel in their fields overseas.
“You’ve carried a very heavy burden this past year and a half,” Mr Morrison said.
“For Australians overseas it has been a very difficult and frustrating time – it’s tough.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered a message to Australian expats locked out of the country during the pandemic.Credit:Advance/YouTube
“Living through a pandemic and being separated from your family and that’s brought its own heartbreak – life’s moments missed that you’ll never get back.
“Zoom can’t do justice to these moments and I know that.”
He defended the policies of locking Australians out of the country saying the “strong border controls” and the “sacrifices” that expats had made had saved 30,000 lives.
“Your sacrifices have made that happen. You have saved lives by enduring and going through those difficulties, so thank you – I do appreciate it and your fellow Australians do also.”
He said he was working hard to implement a national plan that would “bring us all together again,” and reconnect Australia to the world that involved using home quarantine instead of hotel quarantine.
He said the “easiest pathway” for Australians to return home would be to be vaccinated with a TGA-recognised vaccine setting up new uncertainty for the thousands of Australians who live in countries that used Chinese vaccines which are approved by the World Health Organisation but not Australian, British or American regulators.
“I know it’s been difficult but we are looking forward to welcoming many people back home soon. We can get there this year,” he said.
“I thank you once again for your patience and enduring what has been a very frustrating and very difficult time for you.
“We’re getting through it, we’re almost there, thank you, I look forward to welcoming you home,” he said.
The federal government shut Australia’s borders in March last year and in July the Prime Minister and premiers imposed caps on how many citizens could enter per week by limiting the number of mandatory hotel quarantine spaces, which costs a minimum $3000, available.
The policy created a queue of around 40,000 Australians who are trying to get home but can’t because of the caps on quarantine.
A trial is underway in South Australia and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said she will reopen Sydney Airport to Australians who can home quarantine when the state hits a fully vaccinated rate of between 70 to 80 per cent, which is currently estimated to be around October.
Premier Berejkilian said the time required to spend in quarantine could be reduced to seven days or even shorter if a person tested negative on arrival.
“I’m pleased to show other states how that’s possible and we’ll welcome home Australians from all states as a sign of good faith,” she said.
“You can live with COVID-19, as difficult as it is, and you can welcome home Australians, reunite families without jeopardising life because by 80 per cent double dose everybody will know the risks, everybody would have had the opportunity to get vaccinated,” she said.
On Wednesday, it emerged that the ban on Australians leaving the country could be lifted in November.
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