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Quarantine set to expand beyond hotels

Australians returning from overseas as well as foreign seasonal workers and university students could benefit from a wider range of quarantine options.

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned there won’t be “undue haste” in expanding beyond the existing 14-day hotel quarantine system which has been in place since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

As 30,000 Australians seek to return and industries such as agriculture want thousands of seasonal workers, the government is working through the findings of a review into quarantine.

The review sets out a range of options, including home-based isolation, greater use of technology such as monitoring bracelets and mobile apps and workplace-based systems.

The report by former health department boss Jane Halton noted that despite the furore over the hotel quarantine system – which effectively sparked the problems felt by Victoria – the positivity rate was only 0.66 per cent.

Mr Morrison said there was a lot of interest especially from universities and businesses in alternatives to hotel quarantine.

“The more options we can identify, the more capacity it frees up, and the more we can move back to more normal arrangements,” he said.

“But there’s no undue haste, there is undue risk … so you don’t want to build that aeroplane in the sky, you want to build it before it takes off.”

National cabinet on Friday has agreed to lift the weekly cap on international arrivals by 290 places next month, with WA and Queensland to take in the extra travellers.

All states apart from WA have given in-principle backing to a plan to bring all Australians registered abroad home before Christmas.

On Friday, 161 Australians flew into Darwin from London to undertake two weeks quarantine at Howard Springs.

The mining camp is expected to accommodate 5000 returning travellers over the next six months.

States and territories, except WA, also reiterated their support to have the nation’s borders opened by Christmas.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said “making a rushed decision against health advice to meet an artificial deadline is not in the interest of all Western Australians”.

Victorian Premier Dan Andrews said the state was “very well placed” to further ease restrictions on Sunday.

“We are confident in where things are at at the moment,” Mr Andrews said.

“I can’t predict what the numbers will be tomorrow but the strategy is working, the trend is with us, the numbers are falling and that is a very good thing.”

The premier said he was also confident there would be flights into Melbourne again from interstate and overseas by Christmas.

WA Premier McGowan

Australia has seen 27,476 cases of COVID-19, with 905 deaths.

Of the 200 active cases, 19 are in hospital and none are in intensive care.

Worldwide there have been almost 42 million cases and more than 1.1 million deaths, with the United States faring the worst of all countries.

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