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Qantas stands down 20,000 staff, Tasmania to quarantine interstate arrivals


Qantas will stand down two-thirds of its 30,000 workers after suspending international flights, while Tasmania announced tough state border controls, on a morning of dramatically increased responses to the coronavirus crisis.

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Qantas will stand down the majority of its workforce after announcing it will suspend all international flights until the end of May.

The airline earlier this week cut its international capacity by 90 per cent, but the axing of all international flights followed yesterday’s call by prime minister Scott Morrison for Australians not to travel overseas.

Rival Virgin Australia has said it will halt international travel from the end of March to June 14.

Qantas and its subsidiary Jetstar will continue to fly to almost all its Australian domestic and regional destinations but less frequently, as previously flagged.

The group also announced on Thursday that two-thirds of the Qantas and Jetstar workforce would be stood down “in order to preserve as many jobs as possible longer term”.

Employees will be able to draw down on annual and long service leave, while additional support will be introduced, including leave at half-pay and early access to long service leave.

Employees with low leave balances will be able to access up to four weeks leave in advance of earning.

However, the company admitted periods of leave without pay for some employees would be “inevitable”.

Tasmania introduces state border quarantine

In Tasmania, Premier Peter Gutwein has declared a state of emergency and introduced the “toughest border measures in the country”.

All interstate and international arrivals, including Tasmanians, will have to enter 14 day quarantine unless they are deemed essential workers.

The measures come into effect from midnight on Friday but won’t apply to health care workers, emergency workers, defence personnel, air and ship crew, specialists, and essential freight personnel.

All passengers will be screened on arrival and must demonstrate they meet the essential traveller criteria.

If they are deemed non-essential, they will be directed to quarantine at their stated place of address.

Everyone arriving in the state is being asked to fill out a special card so the government can keep track of them.

People who breach quarantine could be fined up to $16,800.

Gutwein said there would be exemptions on compassionate grounds, such as people who have travelled to mainland Australia for medical treatment.

Gutwein also flagged moves to treat coronavirus patients in hotels.

“Obviously there are a lot of vacant hotel rooms at the moment,” he said.

“We are engaged with the hotel section to ensure that we have adequate accommodation should we require it.”

Tasmania confirmed three new virus cases on Wednesday night, taking the state total to 10, although there has been no evidence of local transmission.

July Tokyo Olympics going ahead: AOC

Despite ramped-up national and international responses to the pandemic, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) continues to tell athletes to prepare for the Tokyo Olympics to proceed in four months.

The AOC says the International Olympic Committee has provided fresh assurances that the 2020 Games will start in July, despite widespread concerns.

“We owe it to our Australian athletes to do everything we can to ensure they will participate with the best opportunity in those Games,” AOC chief executive Matt Carroll said today.

Passengers remain aboard cruise ship docked at Melbourne

Passengers aboard a cruise ship that docked at Melbourne this morning have said they are not allowed to leave the vessel.

The Golden Princess arrived at Port Melbourne after being turned away from New Zealand.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a ban on cruise ships from foreign ports from arriving in Australia after an initial 30 days “and that will go forward on a voluntary basis”.

All Australians arriving from overseas must also self isolate for 14 days.

-with AAP

-more to come


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