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Australia set to cap international flights

Australia will reduce the number of international flights entering the country to ease pressure on hotel quarantine amid Melbourne’s coronavirus outbreak.

The Victorian capital will re-enter lockdown for six weeks at midnight on Wednesday, putting five million people under stay-at-home orders.

The state has recorded 134 new cases, with a further three in the ACT linked to the Melbourne infection spike.

In NSW, seven of the eight new diagnoses announced on Wednesday were found in returned travellers tested in hotel quarantine.

States have urged the federal government to slow the pace of international arrivals as hotel capacity is stretched.

Flights into Melbourne stopped after cases begun to rise, but Western Australia and South Australia have since called for a cap.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will unveil a plan to reduce international flights at Friday’s national cabinet meeting with state premiers.

“In Victoria, we have suspended those flights coming in and that has meant that people have moved on to other flights going into other capitals,” he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

“We have looked at that and I’ll be taking a proposal to national cabinet to slow that down.”

More than 357,000 Australian citizens and permanent residents have returned to Australia since March 13.

Mr Morrison warned the highly contagious disease could spread beyond Melbourne without tough measures.

“There’s always the risk it could happen in other cities and every step is being taken to seek to prevent that wherever possible,” he said.

He said dealing with the outbreak was a national effort between federal and state governments.

“We’re all Melburnians now when it comes to the challenges we face,” the Sydney-based prime minister said.

“We’re all Victorians now because we’re all Australians and that’s where the challenge is right now.”

Victoria is being isolated from the rest of the nation as South Australia and NSW shut borders with the state, while the Northern Territory and Tasmnia have banned travellers from the state.

A 34-year-old Victorian man was arrested allegedly trying to cross the NSW border without an exemption.

There are also fears people were not screened for coronavirus after landing in Sydney on a flight from Melbourne.

Melburnians and people in the Mitchell Shire north of the city are being forced to stay home for another six weeks to stem the spread of the deadly disease.

They will only be allowed out to shop for essentials, for care or compassionate reasons, and to exercise, work or study.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth is confident the clampdown will get on top of the virus.

“This is clearly harder the second time around when only a short time ago we were lifting restrictions,” he said.

Mr Morrison said he had assured Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews there would be ongoing federal welfare support.

JobKeeper wage subsidies and the boosted JobSeeker dole payment are set to expire in September.

Banks are extending loan payment holidays for struggling customers. Roughly 800,000 people have applied for six-month deferrals during the coronavirus pandemic.

Households and businesses still struggling to make repayments by late September will be offered another four months.

The federal government will waive Victorian parents’ gap fees if their children don’t attend child care for coronavirus-related reasons.

The activity test will also be eased until October to help families whose jobs are impacted by the pandemic.

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