Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said the ACT would not take any more government-facilitated repatriation flights at this point in time due to the significant costs and operational requirements associated with the program.
Ms Stephen-Smith said costs were proportionally higher for smaller jurisdictions due to economies of scale and the ACT only had one hotel suitable for quarantine purposes.
“This decision results from a number of factors, including other larger jurisdictions recommencing their hotel quarantine programs resulting in good progress being made in reducing the list of Australians waiting to return home,” she said.
“We recognise that there are ACT residents still to return to Australia, and we are exploring options with other states to facilitate arrangements for these Canberrans.”
The announcement came just days after Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the ACT was well-placed to commence a home quarantine program for returning residents instead of the current mandatory hotel quarantine arrangements.
More than 36,000 Australians remain overseas and have registered with DFAT to return home, but only a few hundred are ACT residents, Mr Barr said.
States and territories originally agreed to cover hotel quarantine bills for their residents before costs were passed on to the repatriated Australians.
NSW has been receiving the bulk of people undertaking hotel quarantine, accommodating around 3,000 returned travellers each week as of March.
Ms Stephen-Smith said the government would reimburse other jurisdictions for ACT residents quarantining at their port of entry.
Commonwealth parliamentarians, government officials, diplomats and their family members will still be able to undertake home quarantine in the ACT.
Ms Stephen-Smith said quarantine workers and those involved in the hotel quarantine program would be used for other COVID-19 operations meaning no job losses would occur due to the decision.
“This is an evolving situation. Things may change in the future, and the ACT Government will continue to monitor the situation and respond to developments and needs as they unfold,” she said.
The ACT has received five repatriation flights facilitated by the Commonwealth Government since May 2020, taking in 936 Australian citizens and permanent residents.
A further 1852 diplomats and government officials have undergone hotel and home quarantine in the ACT.