Australia cuts citizen returns as virus surge worsens

Australia will slash the number of returning citizens allowed into the country by half as it struggles to contain a worsening coronavirus outbreak in its second-largest city, officials announced Friday, AFP reports. 

From Monday, only 4,000 Australian citizens or permanent residents will be allowed back into the country each day, down from around 8,000 currently, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

He said the move was needed to focus resources on countering the "very concerning" virus surge in Melbourne, where authorities reported a record 288 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours.

It was the highest daily jump in new infections since the outbreak took off in Melbourne in mid-June, with officials linking the increase to a record amount of testing for the virus.

"It was always going to get worse before it got better," said Daniel Andrews, the premier of the state of Victoria which includes Melbourne.

"We are doing more testing than has ever been done, not by a small margin, but by a massive margin," he said, adding that more than 30,000 people had been tested in the previous 24 hours.

Some five million residents of greater Melbourne were ordered into a six-week, stay-at-home lockdown this week in an effort to curb the outbreak, which has rattled a nation that had successfully contained the epidemic in most areas weeks ago.

The nation of 25 million has so far recorded just over 9,000 COVID-19 cases, 106 of them fatal. Most states and regions have reported few or no new daily cases of the disease in recent weeks.


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