Published: Fri, July 10, 2020

Australia to halve number of returning citizens as virus surges

Australia to halve number of returning citizens as virus surges

Australia will reduce the rate of worldwide arrivals by more than half - with at least 4,000 fewer Australians returning home each week - and states will charge people for compulsory two-week hotel quarantine, Scott Morrison has announced.

In June, Australian Aviation reported comments by Health Minister Greg Hunt which hinted Australia's global borders will remain closed to non-residents until a coronavirus vaccine is developed.

People sit in the arrivals section of the global terminal of Kingsford Smith worldwide Airport the morning after Australia implemented an entry ban on non-citizens and non-residents meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Sydney, Australia, March 21, 2020.

The Australian government said those entering the country would have to pay for a mandatory hotel quarantine to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, the daily Sydney Morning Herald reported.

"The decision that we took to reduce the number of returned travellers to Australia at this time was to ensure that we could put our focus on the resources needed to do the testing and tracing and not have to have resources diverted to other tasks", Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

All states will soon charge people for their two weeks in hotel quarantine.

National cabinet met to consider the worsening second-wave outbreak, which has seen the reimposition of stage-three lockdowns in Melbourne and isolated Victoria with border bans imposed by every state and territory.

Morrison said the cap on returning Australians would remain in place until the Melbourne epidemic is contained.

"This is a challenging day".

"It was always going to get worse before it got better", said Daniel Andrews, the premier of the state of Victoria which includes Melbourne.

The state's chief health officer warned there would be a sharp rise in hospitalizations, intensive care cases and deaths in the coming days as a result of the spike in infections.

"This is us saying: 'We're here with you all the way through what will be a very traumatic, a very distressing and a very hard time for all Victorians, '" state Treasurer Tim Pallas said in a televised media conference.

The state, which makes up about a quarter of Australia's economy, expects unemployment to peak at 11%, up from 6.9% now.

The authorities sealed off some 3,000 people living in nine public-housing towers in Melbourne at the beginning of the latest outbreak, but after a testing blitz has now relaxed the lockdown in all but one of the towers leaving residents under the same restrictions as elsewhere in the city.

The nation of 25 million has so far recorded just over 9,000 Covid-19 cases, 106 of them fatal.

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