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Australia Wants Citizens Stranded Overseas by COVID-19 Restrictions Home by Christmas

Australian tourist Stewart Dufty, 44, second right, talks with other stranded foreign tourists at a hostel in New Delhi, India, April 2, 2020.

Australia is to allow more of its citizens stranded overseas by COVID-19 restrictions to return home. A weekly quota imposed because of capacity constraints in the mandatory hotel quarantine system is to be raised by almost 300 people to 6,290.

Foreign travelers were banned from Australia to curb the spread of COVID-19 in March, but citizens and permanent residents have been allowed to come home. When they do, they face a mandatory 14-day stay in hotel quarantine but there are strict limits on the number of repatriated travelers permitted to return each week.

The current weekly quota is 6,000 people, and that will soon be increased to 6,290.

It is estimated there are about 25,000 Australians stranded overseas. The federal government wants them home by Christmas and is looking with state and territory authorities at other quarantine measures beyond the use of hotels.

Prime minister Scott Morrison.

“Whether that is quarantining in home, on farm, in camp at a mining camp, on campus -- any of these options we will be looking at and working together with states and territories to both identify and trial some of these options,” said Morrison.

The government of the state of Victoria has delayed plans to ease some of the world’s longest lockdown restrictions in the city of Melbourne. An announcement on the relaxation of disease-control measures for shops and restaurants, as well as strict stay-at-home orders for the city’s 5 million residents, had been expected Sunday because of a sustained fall in daily infections. Officials do not know, though, whether a recently discovered cluster of coronavirus cases in Melbourne is contained.

Victoria premier Daniel Andrews believes a prudent approach is needed.

“This is not anything other than a cautious pause to wait to get that important information, to get the results of those tests just to rule out whether there is more virus there than we think,” said Andrews.

Melbourne went into a second COVID-19 lockdown in early July. Business groups have said that they are “shattered” by the delay in reopening the retail, fitness, tourism and hospitality industries.

Many restrictions have been lifted or partially relaxed in other parts of Australia as life begins to resemble what it was before the pandemic, but officials warn against community apathy or complacency.

Australia has recorded 27,500 virus infections. More than 900 people have died.