Australia’s triumph in reining in COVID-19 while infections surge in many parts of the world is making the country a “victim of our own success,” as Australians overseas want to come home, a cabinet minister said on Sunday.
Australia closed its borders in March to all but citizens and residents, and the government has kept entries capped and put those allowed into the country in a two-week mandatory quarantine.
South Australia recorded three locally acquired coronavirus cases on Sunday, its first in months, after a worker from a quarantine hotel infected family members, health officials said.
This came after Australia saw on Saturday its first week of no coronavirus community transmissions and no related deaths since the start of the pandemic. Victoria, the hotspot of the pandemic, recorded on Sunday its 16th consecutive day of no new cases and no deaths.
“With what’s happening with COVID-19 in other parts of the world, we’re almost becoming a victim of our own success here in Australia, with more people wanting to come back,” Education Minister Dan Tehan told Sky News television on Sunday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday that with a growing number of Australians wanting to return, there are not enough quarantine facilities for others, such as thousands of international students.
“Within the existing caps, priority has to be given to returning Australians,” Tehan said on Sunday.
He said, however, that states and territories have been asked to submit plans for a safe return of international students. With foreign students contributing A$35 billion ($25 billion) a year to the Australian economy, Canberra had hoped to slowly allow their return in 2021.
Australia has recorded about 27,700 infections of the new coronavirus and 907 COVID-19 deaths, a fraction of what many other developed nations have seen, thanks to an impressive early response and strict measures that included sending Melbourne, the country’s second-largest city, into months-long lockdown.