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Australia halves number of foreign arrivals as part of 4-stage reopening plan

By Kyle Barnett
Australia halves number of foreign arrivals as part of 4-stage reopening plan
The move, part of the first phase of the reopening plan, is meant to reduce the burden on hotel quarantine facilities. File Photo by Dan Himbrechts/EPA-EFE

July 2 (UPI) -- Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Friday a limit on air travel arrivals in the country, as part of a four-phase plan to reopen after many months of COVID-19 restrictions.

After meeting with leaders, Morrison said Australia will halve the number of international air travelers accepted into the country. He called it a "prudent action," due to the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant.

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The move, part of the first phase of the reopening plan, is meant to reduce the burden on hotel quarantine facilities.

The second phase will return passenger entries to current levels and provide opportunities for vaccinated travelers. He said the next phase may not arrive until next year.

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About 8 million of Australia population of 25 million have so far received at least one vaccine dose, according to government figures.

The new cap on air travelers will be phased in until July 14, officials said. The restriction complicates matters for about 34,000 Australians who have not been allowed to return home during the pandemic.

Morrison noted that there's "still quite a journey ahead of us."

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"The work that we have already done shows that a vaccinated person doing quarantine for seven days is stronger than an unvaccinated person doing quarantine for 14 days," he said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

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In the third phase, the virus will be treated in the same way as any ordinary virus and in the fourth there will be no special attention paid to COVID-19.

The new travel restrictions faced some criticism at the meeting.

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New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian noted, "Just because you reduce the number of people coming in, doesn't mean outbreaks aren't going to happen."

"My heart goes out to thousands of Australians who have to wait longer to come home," she said, according to The Guardian.

Morrison said he's open to altering plans if the medical community backs such a move.

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"If medical advice changes between now and then, if medical advice suggests that we can alter that, then of course the national cabinet has always been receptive to that advice and we'll continue to monitor that," Morrison said, according to the Herald.

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