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Australian state records record 288 new coronavirus cases

Paramedics are seen at the North Melbourne Public Housing tower complex

Australia's national cabinet met on Friday to discuss slowing the number of citizens allowed to return to the country from overseas, as authorities grapple with a COVID-19 outbreak in the country's second most populous state.

Victoria has diverted global flights for a two-week period after failures of hotel quarantine to contain Covid-19, prompting concern from other states that quarantine capacity will be overrun.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced Australians now overseas will have a much harder time getting back on home soil, with the Federal Government confirming worldwide flights into Australia will be slashed by half.

Australians returning home will also be made to pay for mandatory two-week stays in hotel quarantine.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the decision was "in the national interest" and would also include a review of the isolation procedures to develop agreed best practice across all states.

The new measure will be implemented starting Monday and will bar no more than 4,000 Australian nationals and permanent residents from returning home each week.

Australia closed its worldwide borders to all but returning citizens and permanent residents in late March as the pandemic spread.

As a result, he said the state would no longer be accepting any worldwide arrivals "for the foreseeable future".

A queue of people outside a hotel
A large crowd queued outside Sydney pub Golden Sheaf on the night Melbourne's new lockdown came into effect

The lockdown will last for six weeks following a surge in coronavirus cases linked to social distancing breaches in hotels where returned travelers were held in quarantine.

On Friday, Victoria reported a single day jump of 288 new cases.

It was the highest daily jump in new infections since the outbreak took off in Melbourne in mid-June, with officials linking the increase to a record amount of testing for the virus.

"This is a challenging day".

The state's chief health officer warned there would be a sharp rise in hospitalizations, intensive care cases and deaths in the coming days as a result of the spike in infections.

To ease the pain for businesses in Melbourne forced to shut again and holiday spots hit by cancellations, the Victorian government on Friday said it would provide A$534 million ($371 million), on top of A$6 billion already provided. Victoria's economy is expected to shrink by 14% and take two to three years to recover, he said.

Andrews described the new cases as concerning and the state was facing a significant challenge to address the outbreak.

The nation of 25 million has so far recorded just over 9,000 Covid-19 cases, 106 of them fatal.