The prime minister Scott Morrison has announced all new arrivals to Australia must self-isolate. The measure has been put into place in hopes of stemming the spread of the virus. The self-isolation edict will come into place from midnight tonight.
Morrison said he hopes the universal self-isolation requirement will help keep Australia ahead of the curve in its response to the pandemic. The government has also placed a ban on all cruise ships from foreign ports docking in Australia for the next 30 days. The ban will move forward on a rolling basis dependent on the spread of the virus.
“The national Cabinet also endorses the advice of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) today to further introduce social distancing measures,” said the PM.
“I just want to be clear about the travel restrictions I have just announced. All people coming to Australia will be required, will be required, I stress, to self-isolate for 14 days. This is very important. What we’ve seen in recent weeks is more countries having issues with the virus. That means the source of transmission is coming from more countries. Our bans have been very effective to date. What this measure will do is an effective job in flattening this curve as we move forward.”
On a state front, Queensland’s cases of coronavirus have more than doubled overnight, jumping by 46 to 61 infected. To date there are over 3000 Queenslanders in self isolation.
The premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says under Queensland’s public health emergency act, the penalty for not complying with self-isolation is about $13,000.
At a press conference this afternoon, NSW Premier Gladys Berijiklian urged people to cooperate with the self-isolation mandate and said there are currently provisions in the Health Act to deal with people refusing to do so. The state will also be keeping a watchful eye to ensure event organisers were adhering to the ban on mass gatherings.
“In relation to mass gatherings the health minister has the ability to enforce those provisions so where there are planned non-essential mass gatherings, Bereijiklian said. “We also have provisions to enforce the self-isolation but we are hoping it doesn’t come to that.”
NSW recorded 22 new COVID-19 infections since Saturday, taking the state’s total to 134. 60 cases have been acquired whilst overseas and 38 were infected following direct contact with a confirmed case. The remaining 36 cases are still under investigation.
An additional 22 cases of #COVID19 have been diagnosed since March 14, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in NSW to 134.
Confirmed cases: 134
Cases under investigation: 1924
Cases tested and excluded: 20,511
— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) March 15, 2020
Following the PM’s announcement regarding mass gatherings on Friday, the NRL and AFL have suggested games will go ahead but without spectators, while this morning NSW Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres confirmed Vivid festival would be cancelled.
“Vivid Sydney is a bright star of Sydney’s event calendar so the decision to cancel was not taken lightly. As the event owner, we must follow the advice of health officials to ensure the health and safety of our citizens and everyone involved with Vivid Sydney,” Ayres said.
Meanwhile, in the US, President Donald Trump has tested negative for the virus. The president has also upped the ban on travel to now include the UK and Ireland. While American Airlines has announced it’s grounding the majority of its international wide-body fleet as it is suspending all long-haul flights to Asia, Europe, South America, New Zealand and Australia.
In the UK the number of deaths from the virus has doubled in 24 hours. with the number of UK citizens testing positive for Covid-19 rising from 798 on Friday to 1,140 on Saturday, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.
Meanwhile, in Italy, the death toll from coronavirus jumped by 250 in the past 24 hours, the biggest daily increase ever recorded by any country.
Back in Australia, South Australia has announced another person has come down with coronavirus, taking the state’s total to 20. The 60-year-old woman was recently returned from travel in the US.
While mass gatherings of more than 500 people are being discouraged from Monday, the recommendation does not include the nation’s schools. The PM has suggested schools will remain open at present unless impacted by a case of coronavirus.
While the PM said the move may seem anti-intuitive, he said it comes backed by the best advice.
“The issue of wide-scale closure of schools, it may be anti-intuitive, but the advice is, this could actually be a very negative thing in terms of impacting on how these curves operate,” Mr Morrison said.
“When you take children out of schools and put them in the broader community, the ability for them to potentially engage with others increases that risk. That is the understanding we have.”
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