MELBOURNE: The Australian government on Friday decided not to relax the incoming travellers cap of 4,000 per week even as thousands of Australians are stranded overseas waiting to return home amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison came after the Cabinet agreed "on the balance of risk" that the number of people allowed to return from overseas at present will remain at 4,000 per week.
Morrison said the government was considering steps to support Australians trapped in other countries owing to coronavirus travel restrictions.
"Right now it is not the wise decision to raise those caps," Morrison said after the Cabinet meeting, adding, "4,000 are still returning every single week."
The decision will be reviewed again in a fortnight, Morrison said, adding he hopes to "make further room" for people to return home after outbreaks in the states of Victoria and New South Wales are under control.
"We acknowledge that some of them are in difficult circumstances. We'll be doing more to help them in those circumstances and to assist them to get home within those caps," he said.
"What I have asked for from the Foreign Affairs Minister and the Minister for Home Affairs and the Defence Minister is they're bringing forward measures to me and the Treasurer to see how we can better support those who are still overseas," he said.
"Our consular teams are doing a great job to help them in those circumstances, and to assist them to get home within those caps," he added.
More than 18,000 Australians, stranded mostly in countries like India, Philippines and South Africa, have expressed desire to return home, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
According an ABC report, over 357,000 Australian citizens and permanent residents have returned back since March.
Meanwhile, Victoria on Friday recorded nine more deaths and less than 200 new infected cases for the first time in several weeks.
The country reported 470 COVID-19 cases on Friday, taking the national tally to 24,407, including 14,924 recoveries.