Virus quarantine in the sights of leaders

Australia’s political leaders will discuss a snap review of hotel quarantine arrangements as the nation races to stop a coronavirus outbreak in Melbourne from spreading.

Dealing with the spike in cases in Victoria is top of the agenda for the national cabinet’s meeting on Friday.

States have ramped up testing and strict border controls in a bid to halt infections.


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Victoria recorded 165 of Australia’s 182 new cases of the disease on Thursday, with the source of 135 under investigation.

Four new cases linked to the Melbourne outbreaks have been detected in Canberra in two days, ending the ACT’s month-long clean bill of health.

Of the new cases in NSW and WA, all but two were among returned travellers in hotel quarantine.

Health officials have examined quarantine arrangements after the outbreak in Melbourne was linked to infection control breaches among hotel security.

But senior Morrison government figures have been careful not to blame Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews for the disastrous bungle.

Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge said supporting Victoria to get on top of the crisis as quickly as possible was crucial to solving the issue.

“It is not useful for me as federal minister to enter into a blame game,” the Melbourne-based MP told the Nine Network on Friday.

Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles said a judicial inquiry into the issue would get to the bottom of who was to blame.

“Somebody getting sacked is not going to make anyone get better. It’s not going to make any business come back,” he said.

Leaders will also consider a proposal from Prime Minister Scott Morrison to cap international arrivals to ease the pressure on quarantine arrangements.

Mr Tudge said citizens and permanent residents would retain the right to return to Australia.

“You’re an Aussie, you’re entitled to come back to your home country,” he told the Nine Network on Friday.

He said the NSW government had indicated around 450 people a day would be its preferred limit, while WA wants less.

Flights to Melbourne have stopped for now, increasing pressure on other capitals’ hotel quarantine regimes.

Health officials are recommending people in greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shire to the city’s north wear a face mask outside the home if they cannot practice social distancing.

Aside from Victoria, masks are still not recommended in any other state or territory because there is no community transmission.

© AAP 2020