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Australia seeks exemption from UK quarantine as COVID-19 cases slow

The British government is planning a 14-day quarantine for most people arriving in the country in the coming weeks to try to prevent a second peak of the pandemic, with details to be finalised next month.

This file photo taken on 15 April 2020 shows a COVID-19 coronavirus sign at a Pacific Highway vehicle checkpoint on the Queensland-New South Wales state border near Coolangatta. Picture: AFP

SYDNEY - Australia, after bringing its coronavirus outbreak largely under control, said on Friday it is seeking an exemption from a requirement that travellers arriving in the UK quarantine for 14 days to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The British government is planning a 14-day quarantine for most people arriving in the country in the coming weeks to try to prevent a second peak of the pandemic, with details to be finalised next month.

Heathrow Airport has proposed Britain should set up “travel bubbles” with low-risk countries exempt from the requirement.

“Australia has led the world in the successful containment of COVID-19, which clearly means that travellers coming from Australia would pose a low risk to the rest of the world,” Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said in a statement.

Birmingham said Australia has no plans to open its borders to non-citizens, while all returning locals will still have to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.

Australia has recorded just over 7,000 cases, while the death count rose on Friday to 101 after authorities said an 80-year-old woman died from COVID-19. The unnamed woman contracted the virus in a Sydney hospital.

With fewer than 20 new coronavirus cases each day, Australia has committed to removing most social distancing restrictions by July to revive an ailing economy.

Nearly 600,000 people were forced out of work by the coronavirus restrictions in April.

Fitch Ratings on Friday downgraded its outlook on Australia’s coveted ‘AAA’ rating to “negative” from “stable”, citing the hit to the country’s economy and public finances from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The implementation of a three-step plan to remove the remaining restrictions is down to state and territory leaders, who have argued over the pace of reopening state borders and other issues.

Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales (NSW) said on Friday it gatherings of 20 people will soon be permitted. Currently, outdoor gathers are limited to 10 people or less.

NSW state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the easing of the restrictions will boost the local economy.

“We want to save jobs. We cannot afford to continue to have the job losses that we’ve encountered in April,” Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.

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