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Australia explores lifting state border closures by Christmas
[SYDNEY] Australia is considering reopening state borders in time for Christmas and is also weighing plans to create alternative options to hotel quarantine so that more of its citizens can return from abroad.
All states and territories except for Western Australia agreed to a framework that would end regional border closures before Dec 25, according to a statement from Prime Minister Scott Morrison's office.
The details will be finalised by the next meeting of federal and state leaders, scheduled for Nov 13. Work continues on efforts to increase the number of Australians allowed to return from overseas, with options such as quarantining at home or in university housing or with private providers.
Australia is taking steps to kick-start its economy with Covid-19 cases having dwindled in the worst-hit state of Victoria, from a daily peak of over 600 cases to just a handful.
The relaxation of rules on gatherings in Sydney and steps toward allowing people to cross state borders come as the US and Europe battle with increasing infection rates and hospitalisations.
"National Cabinet continues to work together to address issues and find solutions to the health and economic consequences of Covid-19," Mr Morrison said in the statement. "Australia has done well on both the health and economic fronts compared to most countries around the world."
There have been more than 27,000 coronavirus cases in Australia and some 905 people have died. Active cases are down to about 220 from 1,100 five weeks ago.