Australia to Quarantine All International Air Arrivals
Passengers wearing protective masks and hazmat suits stand in line at a check-in lane at Melbourne Airport in Melbourne, Australia. (Photographer: Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg)

Australia to Quarantine All International Air Arrivals

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(Bloomberg) -- Australian authorities will quarantine anyone arriving in the nation’s airports to slow the spread of the coronavirus, amid concern some residents returning home were failing to self-isolate.

The defense force will be deployed to enforce the measures, which will see arrivals quarantined in hotels or other accommodation, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters Friday after a meeting of the National Cabinet.

“These important actions are the most important we can take right now,” Morrison said. This is where “the most critical concern is,” he said.

The government has moved incrementally to shut down society, closing pubs and casinos, barring non-essential travel and closing its borders to non-residents. Yet still the number of infections has grown, reaching 2,985 earlier Friday and 13 deaths, with most of the cases linked to overseas arrivals.

Australia to Quarantine All International Air Arrivals

The new quarantine measures will be enforced from midnight Saturday, he said. Australia had just over 7,000 international arrivals on Thursday, down from a daily intake of about 40,000 last year.

Since the start of the month, Australia has announced two stimulus packages worth about A$80 billion that were passed by parliament. The central bank has also weighed in and together they’ve unleashed fiscal and monetary stimulus totaling A$189 billion. Morrison said Friday the government is preparing a third tranche of stimulus to support commercial tenants and ultimately residential tenants.

The closure of many non-essential services such as pubs, casinos and gyms has wreaked havoc on Australia’s economy, with long queues of newly jobless citizens forming outside welfare agencies. Josh Williamson, a senior economist for Australia at Citigroup Inc., estimates about 440,000 people will have lost their jobs by the third quarter, with the unemployment rate peaking at 8.4%.

Morrison, 51, has faced criticism from some who believe the government is over-reacting and from those who want more stringent controls before the country slips into an Italy-style crisis.

Education has been the biggest bugbear for Australian parents. In New South Wales state, for instance, schools remain open and authorities insist they are safe. Yet parents are being encouraged to keep their children home.

Morrison said Friday that there was no rush to put the country into a complete lockdown because whatever restrictions would then be in place would inevitably be there for some time.

He applauded the way most citizens were changing their behavior in response to the restrictions already in place, and said he was was confident that “we’re getting on top of this.”

“There has been a significant change in the way people are taking on these messages,” he said. “Thank you. Keep doing it. You are savings lives, you are saving livelihoods.”

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