Australia is slowly beginning to remove a cap on its citizens and permanent residents returning to the country, as it looks to ease COVID travel restrictions.
From November, a total of 5,865 people will be allowed to return to the country each week – 290 more than currently allowed – after Western Australia and Queensland agreed to accommodate more locals.
It comes after 26,000 Australians registered their intention to come home when they were left stuck in other countries.
They will still have to quarantine in a hotel for 14 days under Australian rules before returning to their homes.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “The most effective way to get Australians home is to increase these caps.”
The number of citizens allowed to return has been capped at 5,575 since July during the country’s second outbreak of COVID-19.
It was sparked by people who were quarantining in Victoria, who passed the virus on to hotel workers, which then spread to the local community.
At its peak, 19 people died in the state of Victoria after testing positive for the virus, while 700 new cases were reported in the state at the end of July.
By contrast, only one new case has been reported in Victoria in the past 24 hours and there are currently only 100 active cases, officials said on Friday.
Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, told reporters: “This is a good number. This is a very clear sign that the strategy is working.”
But those hoping to return home are scrambling to buy plane tickets and raise money to be able to pay for a hotel to quarantine in.
The prime minister’s government faced pressure to help stranded Australians, which prompted them to strike a deal with the Northern Territory government allowing 500 people to return every two weeks in addition to the weekly cap.
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According to data from Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 27,000 active cases of the virus in Australia.
A total of 905 people have died in the country after contracting the virus. Victoria accounts for more than 90% of the 905 deaths nationally.
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