Australian State Cuts Overseas Arrivals as Quarantine Strained

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Western Australia has halved the number of international arrivals it will accept each week to ease the strain on its hotel quarantine program.

State Premier Mark McGowan said the federal government had agreed to reduce the weekly cap to 512 travelers from Thursday until May 30. He again called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to open federal isolation facilities, instead of relying on states to quarantine people in hotels.

“If we are to crush the virus, just as we have done before, we need to slow the flow of returning travelers,” McGowan said.

As virus cases surge in countries such as India, there are fears Australia’s quarantine system will buckle with more returning travelers testing positive. There are also concerns that hotels are ill-equipped to contain mutated strains of the virus.

The reduced cap will prolong the wait for some 30,000 Australians who are trying to return home from overseas.

More than 2 million people in Perth, the capital of Western Australia, and a neighboring region are in the midst of a three-day lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19 after a returned overseas traveler who’d completed quarantine tested positive for the virus.

The man was infected after the virus spread from an adjacent hotel room, potentially through the ventilation system. A close contact of the man has tested positive, and another local case was recorded Saturday. No new community cases were recorded Sunday.

While Australia has come close to eliminating local transmission of the virus by closing its international border to non-residents -- other than a new travel bubble with New Zealand -- occasional cases leak into the community from quarantine hotels.

The main Labor opposition is demanding Morrison speeds up the sluggish vaccine rollout to mitigate such risks.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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