127k Aussies have gone overseas since COVID hit
About 127,000 Australians have left the country since international borders shut in March last year, as more government-backed flights to help those stranded overseas, including from the UK, are planned for the coming weeks.
The figures come as fears continue to grow over the UK mutant strand of the virus.
Australian Border Force data reveals there have been 280,000 Australians citizens and permanent residents return to the country by air as at January 10 since borders closed in March.
This compares to 127,000 who have left the country in that time frame.
It is a 98 per cent reduction in the 7.76 million Australians who departed Australia over a similar time frame in 2018-19.
International borders have been shut since March 25 last year in a bid to limit COVID-19 entering the country.
But there are some exemptions which Australian citizens and permanent residents can apply for, including if their travel is part of the response to the outbreak, compassionate grounds such as a funeral, receiving urgent medical treatment not available in the country or if it is for your business or employer.
While Australians continue to leave the country, there are still 37,000 Aussies overseas who have registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as wanting to get back home.
That is despite the department having already assisted in the return of 38,800 Australians on 500 flights, while 50,000 offers of places where made available to Australians overseas in the six weeks leading to Christmas.
A Senate inquiry in November heard some people had turned down flights because they "do not wish to return to Australia at this time".
A DFAT spokeswoman said the number of Australians registered as wishing to return varied regularly as people's circumstances change.
"Further facilitated flights to support the return of vulnerable Australians overseas are planned for the coming weeks from the United Kingdom, India, United States and other countries," she said.
Originally published as 127k Aussies have gone overseas since COVID hit