Australia cuts international arrivals by half over COVID-19 outbreak

Sydney, Australia, Jul 10 (efe-epa).- Australia will slash the number of international arrivals by more than half from next week as it deals to the fresh COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne, the country’s prime minister said Friday.

“We agreed today to a reduction in the number of inbound arrivals into Australia across those ports that are able to accept returning Australian citizens and residents,” Scott Morrison told reporters at a press conference in Canberra following a National Cabinet meeting on Friday.

“It is a reduction of over 4,000 people coming each week and that is spread across those ports of entry and that will take affect from Monday,” he added.

Morrison said that this reduction of “just over half” of weekly returnees will allow the authorities to focus on COVID-19 testing and tracing, rather than having resources diverted.

The measure comes after a new six-week lockdown began on Thursday in Melbourne – Australia’s second-most populous city with 5 million residents – as well as in rural Mitchell Shire amid an outbreak in cases of COVID-19, which is under control in the rest of the country.

Australia closed its international borders in March, although it allows the entry of residents and citizens who must undergo a 14-day quarantine in hotels in the country.

The country, which has allowed the entry of 70,000 people since March, closely follows the footsteps of neighboring New Zealand, which has practically eliminated COVID-19 and has limited the number of arrivals of its residents and citizens to ease pressure on its quarantine centers.

The Australian prime minister, who plans to talk with his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern about a plan to create a travel bubble between the two countries, also announced that a countrywide review of quarantine hotels for international arrivals will be carried out.

In the review, the cost charged to those in quarantine will be analyzed, given that until now some states and territories bear those costs, in addition to the standards in the training of security guards and health workers in those places.

“As our country opens up again, with the exception of Victoria, we can make sure we have even greater confidence in those quarantine arrangements as they have been put in place,” Morrison said.

“There have been very few breaches but we have seen, as has been reported in Victoria, a single breach, even if it’s low risk can lead to a catastrophic outcome,” Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said, referring to the Melbourne outbreak thought to be due to non-compliance of quarantine measures in the hotels where new arrivals were staying in the city.

Australia has begun to normalize its economic activities after containing the COVID-19 crisis, except in the state of Victoria where the fresh outbreak has meant a mandatory six-week lockdown for the 5 million people of Melbourne and Mitchell Shire.

The state of Victoria reported 288 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, marking the highest daily total in Australia since the beginning of the epidemic, and so far has recorded 3,397 cases of the total of 9,000 cases recorded in the country, which includes 106 deaths. EFE-EPA


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