Mr Andrews said a “discussion” is needed now the UK strain, which is more infectious, is circulating.
Melbourne’s new outbreak stems from the Holiday Inn, a hotel quarantine centre for international travellers. A woman tested positive after her initial quarantine period had ended.
Australians flying in from overseas are sent to hotels for 14 days at the cost of about $3000.
Should the number of overseas Aussie allowed to return home be limited until UK COVID virus strain is under control?
“I think there needs to be a cold, hard discussion, and I’m happy to lead it, if I have to, about whether, with this UK strain – and we haven’t even got on to South Africa yet, because it’s just as bad – should we be having the total number of people coming home?” he said.
“Or should it be a much smaller program that’s based on compassionate grounds? That’s a conversation we should have.
“It’s not for me to make announcements about how many Australians get to come back to Australia.
“That’s for the Federal Government. What I’m saying is the game has changed,” he added.
“This thing is not the 2020 virus. It is very different. It is much faster. It spreads much more easily.
“And, therefore, we, all of us, have to have a conversation about what’s safe, what’s proportionate, what’s reasonable.”
From next week, just over 6300 will allowed in per week, up slightly.
That includes NSW taking the most at 3,010 and Victoria taking 1,310,
The rules means for months now, Australians have faced being bumped off flights multiple times, with even expensive business class seats affected and planes landing mostly empty.
However, Mr Andrews claimed anybody who gets the strain will become “gravely ill” – despite only one person with it being in intensive care in Victoria.
Earlier today, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said more than 200,000 Australians have now gone through the hotel quarantine process successfully since it was introduced last April.
The Australians trying to get home includes people who have been trying to travel since the start of the pandemic.
Most were not on holiday but were expats living overseas.
Adding to the number are expats who didn’t want to come back at first, but now do, such as because of they’ve lost their job or finished their contract, or simply want to return to live in Australia, including to escape from high-risk areas such as the US or UK.
Thousands of Australians have also been allowed to leave the country – permission is needed – for compassionate reasons such as to see sick family overseas.
Since the start of the pandemic, DFAT says it has supported around 39,000 people to return on more than 500 flights, including more than 12,800 on 92 government facilitated flights.
As well as quarantine hotels, the Howard Springs camp at Darwin is being used.
However, opposition politicians have called on the government to do more to help.