Australia will cut by half the number of returning people allowed into the country as it struggles to contain a coronavirus outbreak in its second-largest region, officials announced Friday. Only 4,000 Australian citizens or permanent residents will be allowed back into the country every day from Monday, down from around 8,000 at present, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
The statement came as officials in Victoria State announced a total of 288 new cases of COVID-19 mostly in Melbourne, the state capital. In an effort to curb the outbreak, which rattled a nation that had successfully contained the epidemic in most areas weeks ago, some five million residents of greater Melbourne have been ordered into a six-week lockdown this week. Health officials said it will take several weeks to find out if the Melbourne lockout had managed to stop the surge.
All returning travelers were put in compulsory hotel quarantine, stretching resources in the main cities of the country. Morrison said the cap on returning Australians would remain in place before resolving the Melbourne outbreak. Infringements of health and safety at quarantine hotels in Melbourne have been blamed for causing the outbreak there and most COVID-19 reports in Australia have been accounted for by returning overseas travelers nationally.