Australia will slash 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. Just 4,000 Australian nationals 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.
In an attempt to curb the outbreak, which shocked a nation that had effectively controlled the virus in most areas weeks earlier, some five million residents of greater Melbourne have been called 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. As coronavirus mounted in late March, Australia closed its external borders to all but returning citizens and permanent residents.
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 cases in Australia have been accounted for by returning overseas travelers nationally.