Australia will cut the number of people allowed to return home by half each week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday as authorities fight to contain an epidemic of COVID-19 in the country’s second most populous city.
Since March, Australia only allows citizens and permanent residents to enter the country. Once arrived, they enter a mandatory 14-day quarantine in hotels, which is paid for by state governments.
Morrison said that on Monday, Australia will cap the numbers at 4,000 people a week, about half the number who returned. Those who return will also have to pay for their quarantine stays.
“The decision we made … was to make sure that we could focus on the resources needed to perform testing and tracing and not have to divert resources to other tasks,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra after a meeting of the national cabinet. .
Neighboring New Zealand adopted measures earlier this week to limit the number of citizens returning home to reduce the burden on its overflowing quarantine facilities.
The outbreak of the city of Melbourne forced 5 million Australians to stay at home for all but essential business, led the rest of the Australian states to ban Victorians from entering and dealt a blow to the economic recovery of Australia.
It also slowed the planned opening of a quarantine “travel bubble” with New Zealand, which Morrison said he would discuss with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern later Friday.
The announcement of new travel restrictions comes days after Victoria reimposed blockades in the state capital, Melbourne.
The lockout will last six weeks following an outbreak of coronavirus linked to social distancing in hotels where returning travelers have been quarantined.
On Friday, Victoria reported a 288 new day jump. This marked a record for the state and brought its active cases to 1,172, which represents most of the active cases in the country.
“It’s a difficult day. It could get worse before it gets better, “Prime Minister Daniel Andrews told reporters.
The state chief of health has warned that there will be a sharp increase in hospitalizations, intensive care cases and deaths in the coming days due to the outbreak of infections.
In an effort to control the epidemic, Victoria also became the first state in the country to encourage people to wear masks when they leave home.
To alleviate the pain of Melbourne businesses forced to close again and vacations hit by cancellations, the Victorian government announced Friday that it would provide an additional A $ 534 million (US $ 371 million), in addition to 6 billion Australian dollars already provided.
“It is we who say,” We are here with you throughout what will be a very traumatic, very painful and very difficult time for all Victorians, “said state treasurer Tim Pallas during of a televised press conference.
The state, which accounts for about a quarter of the Australian economy, expects unemployment to peak at 11%, down from 6.9% currently. Victoria’s economy is expected to contract by 14% and take two to three years to recover, said Pallas.
Despite the increase in the number of cases in Victoria, the state has eased restrictions on most of the 3,000 people locked up in nine social housing towers. One of the nine towers will remain blocked for an additional eight days.
Even with the latest epidemic, Australia has so far been relatively successful in controlling the new coronavirus, with around 9,000 cases and 106 deaths.