Australia

International travellers returning to Australia to be sent to quarantine facilities for two weeks

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has praised the response of Australians to the coronavirus pandemic as "simply magnificent".

Thousands of Australians returning to the country will be quarantined in hotels and other accommodation facilities for two weeks before being allowed to go home, under new measures to control the spread of coronavirus. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the decision on Friday afternoon, saying the arrangement would ensure returned travellers complied with the self-quarantine requirements and limit the risk of them passing on COVID-19 to family members.

"If their home is in South Australia or in Perth or in Tasmania and they have arrived in Melbourne, they will be quarantining in Melbourne. If it's in Sydney, it will be if Sydney. If it's Brisbane, and so on," Mr Morrison said.

The measure will effect all international travellers returning after midnight on Saturday.

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Mr Morrison said the cost of the quarantining travellers in hotels and other facilities will be borne by the states and territories, with NSW expected to be the most affected. 

"The greatest stress and strain will be in New South Wales because they have the highest number of [overseas] arrivals of any states and territories."

Despite flights being slashed and travel bans in place in many countries, thousands of people continue to arrive in Australia.

On Thursday, more than 7,000 people landed at Australian airports from overseas. 

The military will also be called in to help state and territory authorities enforce the self-isolation rules.

Nearly 300 people are being held at Sydney hotel Swissotel after returning on a Qantas chartered flight from Honolulu in Hawaii.

The strict quarantine measures took some of the travellers, who had already been quarantined on board a cruise ship in the US, by surprise with some complaining about "prison-like" conditions. 

Mr Morrison said it was not necessary to step up lockdown measures at this stage, praising Australians who have heeded the message to stay home.

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This Australian teacher in Wuhan has a message about COVID-19 for those back home
This Australian teacher in Wuhan has a message about COVID-19 for those back home

"Thank you for the way over the course of this week you have been responding to the very significant changes that we've been asking you to make to your lives and to your livelihoods," Mr Morrison said. 

However, Mr Morrison flagged further measures to assist Australian businesses as he warned more would be forced to shut down.

"Part of that plan that we will be announcing will be to seek to hibernate Australian businesses. This will be a very innovative approach in the circumstances we find ourselves in. We will have more to say about this."

"...We want to ensure that as far as practicable that we continue to pursue this both from the health point of view and ensuring we minimise the impact on people, particularly economically."

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Australians must stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people. Indoors, there must be a density of no more than one person per four square metres of floor space.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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