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Air travel begins to reopen amid pandemic

More Australians will gradually be able to return home each week and Canberrans can soon touch down in Queensland as leaders fine-tune the nation’s coronavirus restrictions.

After weeks of pressure, states have agreed to a staged increase to the number of weekly international arrivals.

The overall cap will rise from 4000 to about 6000 over the next two weeks.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has offered Australian Defence Force assistance to the states, insisting they weren’t after extra money to deal with more arrivals.

“They were asking for ADF support and the answer to that was yes,” he told reporters in Sydney on Friday.

NSW will take an extra 500 people each week from September 27, resulting in about 3000 people weekly.

Queensland and Western Australia will increase arrivals by 200 from the same date. The Sunshine State will receive a further 500 weekly arrivals on October 4, while WA will do the same a week later.

SA will also increase its hotel quarantine capacity from 500 to 800 in coming weeks.

There are about 24,000 Australians overseas who want to return home, with around 4000 considered to be vulnerable.

Meanwhile, ACT residents will be able to fly to Queensland from September 25 unless they have visited a COVID-19 hotspot.

Canberrans can now also travel to SA without quarantining for 14 days, and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr says organising similar arrangements with Tasmania and WA is on his to-do list.

International flights to the ACT have been cancelled for much of the pandemic but more charter flights organised by the federal government are poised to land in the capital.

Mr Barr says about 150 people could arrive each fortnight.

“(It) takes the pressure off some of the other states and territories but clearly we’re not going to be a place where thousands of people are arriving each week,” he told the ABC.

From October 1, domestic air passengers will have to provide their name, email, mobile phone number and state of residence to help with contact tracing.

Victoria reported 45 new cases and five deaths on Friday, taking the national toll to 837. NSW had six new cases.

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