Australia eases caps on returning citizens as Perth exits lockdown
Western Australia’s state capital Perth and southwest region, home to about two million people, emerged from lockdown from 6pm local time on Friday.
Australia’s biggest state ended a snap five-day Covid-19 lockdown on Friday evening after reporting no cases for five days straight.
Its national Cabinet decided to lift the temporary caps on citizens returning from overseas from the middle of this month.
Western Australia’s state capital Perth and southwest region, home to about two million people, ended its lockdown from 6pm local time on Friday.
“I’m so relieved we have got to this point and we can get businesses and our economy back open with full confidence,” state Premier Mark McGowan said.
Community infections in the country remained low for the past few days and it will relax caps on international arrivals to some states.
The number was cut by nearly half, to about 3,000, in early January after more contagious new variants of the virus were discovered.
“From 15 February, the caps will return to the previous levels for New South Wales and Queensland. So, we will see that capacity lift again,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters.
Since last March, Australia’s international border has been shut to all but nationals and permanent residents, all of whom must enter a two-week hotel quarantine on arrival, at their own expense.
On Friday, Victoria, the country’s second most populous state, reported no new cases, bringing relief to organisers of the Australian Open.
The tennis tournament is due to start on February 8, but an employee of a hotel where some players were staying contracted the virus.
The case, reported late on Wednesday, resulted in 500 players and staff being put into isolation while they were tested. Tournament officials on Friday said almost all of them have tested negative for the virus.
Australia has reported only about 29,000 Covid-19 cases and 909 deaths, far fewer than many other wealthy countries.
It imposed strict border controls, widespread testing, social distancing rules and lockdowns.
Updated: February 8, 2021 09:21 AM