States, territories have “profound human duty” to repatriate Australians: health minister

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CANBERRA, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) — Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt has told state and territory leaders that they have a “duty” to facilitate the return of citizens and residents stranded overseas.

The federal government is facing calls to take over control of Australia’s hotel quarantine system for returned travellers, which has been managed by state and territory governments since March 2020.

Daniel Andrews, the Premier of Victoria, has called for a discussion about the system after the state forced into its third coronavirus lockdown recently.

Victoria’s Department of Health confirmed on Monday that in the past 24 hours to midnight there were two new cases in the state, including one locally acquired and the other in hotel quarantine.

In response, Hunt reminded leaders that repatriating the about 40,000 Australians who remain stranded overseas amid the pandemic was a “vital part of our humanity.”

“And when there are discussions, it has to be boiled down to the human – mums and dads coming home to see their sons and daughters, children who’ve been studying overseas, families that have been separated,” he told reporters in Canberra on Sunday afternoon.

“That’s our deep, profound human duty and we’ll continue to do that and we’ll encourage all states and territories to do that.”

He confirmed that the federal government was on the verge of an agreement with the government of the Northern Territory (NT) to increase the quarantine capacity of the Howard Springs facility on the outskirts of Darwin, the capital city of NT.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously said its capacity could be more than doubled and Hunt said that it was dependent on the NT government.

“We’ve so far struck two deals with the Northern Territory, and then the third one is very close. But it’s simply dependent on their capability assessment of what is the safe carrying capacity for the third stage of the Howard Springs facility,” he said. Enditem

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