July 10, 2020 / 12:05 AM / a month ago

Australia's national cabinet meets to consider slowing number of citizens allowed to return

SYDNEY, July 10 (Reuters) - Australia’s national cabinet will meet on Friday to discuss slowing the number of citizens allowed to return to the country from overseas, as authorities grapple with a COVID-19 outbreak in the country’s second most populous state.

With heightened fears of a new national wave of infections, Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier this week proposed the restriction in order to ease the pressure on state authorities who oversee the mandatory 14-day quarantine of anyone who returns to Australia.

Neighbouring New Zealand enacted measures earlier this week to limit the number of citizens returning home to reduce the burden on its overflowing quarantine facilities.

The national cabinet meeting comes as the country’s second largest city, Melbourne, begins a second day under broad restrictions. Nearly 5 million people in the Victorian capital are allowed to leave their homes only to work, buy food or seek medical attention for the next six weeks.

Despite surging numbers of cases in the state, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews on Thursday relaxed restrictions on many of the 3,000 people locked down in nine public-housing towers.

Residents in eight of the towers are now under the same restrictions as metropolitan Melbourne. The other tower remains in a hard lockdown.

A testing blitz found 158 out of nearly 3,000 residents were infected with the virus. About one-third of those were in one tower, where everyone is being forced to self-isolate for nine more days.

Despite the latest outbreak, Australia has done relatively well in controlling the novel coronavirus, with around 9,000 cases and 106 deaths. (Reporting by Colin Packham and Sonali Paul; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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