Labor: Australians will continue to be stranded overseas until Morrison boosts COVID-19 virus quarantine

Australians will continue to be stranded in risky situations overseas until the government boosts the quarantine system, Labor says.

The federal government has paused flights from India, including on indirect routes, until May 15.

The suspension of flights followed medical advice that the high ratio of positive cases in people returning from India was presenting a risk to the quarantine system, and the broader Australian community.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says a number of other countries seeing rising case numbers could also be named as “high-risk” and face travel restrictions in weeks to come.

At the same time, Australia will provide millions of pieces of medical and personal protective equipment to India, as well as oxygen concentrators.

India recorded more than 360,000 new coronavirus cases over the past day, with 3293 people dying.

Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said it was important Australia work with other countries to contain the wave of cases in India.

But the federal government should wear some of the blame for the stranded Australians, having faced calls for many months to boost the number of quarantine beds and improve the system.

“This really has been an abdication of responsibility from Mr Morrison,” she told the ABC.

“He told people they would be home by Christmas and clearly that has not been the case.

“We still do not have a system of safe national quarantine led by the Commonwealth.

“We are now in a situation … that the longer we waited, the more perilous the situation would become and regrettably that has come to pass and Australians in India are less safe as a consequence of the prime minister’s failure to act.”

Morrison visited Darwin on Wednesday to discuss the expansion of the Howard Springs facility from 800 to 2000 beds, which has not had a COVID-19 case breach during its operation.

He said half a million Australians had been enabled to return during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, Western Australia will close three “high-risk” quarantine hotels and indefinitely reduce its returned traveller intake after a COVID-19 breach prompted a snap lockdown.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said it would be “dangerous” to start changing the hotel quarantine system, which to date had worked very well.

She disagreed with the idea of “setting up new systems in the back of nowhere”.

Victoria is expected to announce on Thursday or Friday details of a business case for a stand-alone quarantine facility.

A consortium in the southern Queensland city of Toowoomba is also advocating a facility there.