Victoria is forming a 500-strong police task force to enforce social distancing and new laws aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus.
The police will be able to conduct spot checks on travellers and can fine and detain people defying the increasingly strict laws being introduced by the federal and state governments.
On Sunday night Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that a range of public venues where people gather, including pubs, clubs, casinos, churches and cinemas, must close from noon today. Details are here. NSW and Victoria had already announced plans to close down non-essential services ahead of the National Cabinet meeting of state and territory leaders that unanimously backed the national plan.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is closing the state’s school early for holidays, from Tuesday March 23, with plans for students to return on April 14 as planned, depending on future medical advice. The Premier said the early closure will give schools the chance to plan for remote, flexible, and distance learning.
“It will be a very different school holiday than usual and it needs to be because if we don’t start taking these things seriously then we will be talking about a quite amazing tragedy,” he said
“Now, many Victorians are doing the right thing, they are keeping their distance, they are observing the rules that have been written but there are many Victorians who are acting selfishly. They are not taking this seriously. They are doing the wrong thing and if that continues, then people will die.”
Andrews said that just because pubs are closed – bottleshops will remain open – you shouldn’t have your mates around for beers, citing the case of a dozen people at a dinner party where someone was infected with COVID-19.
The Prime Minister said on Sunday that families should cancel plans to go away for the school holidays. Tasmania has border restrictions in place forcing visitors to the island to self-isolate for 14 days. Similar rules will begin in South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory from Tuesday.
The NSW government shut down Bondi Beach on Saturday after thousands when to the beach in hot weather on Friday.
This morning, NSW Department of Health said there were 136 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, taking the state’s total to 669 confirmed cases, with six people dying.
There have been nearly 330,000 cases globally, with 14,376 people dying and around a third of the remainder recovering from the virus.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced schools will remain open, but she encouraged parents who can to keep their children at home.
The schools, which are due to close for the Easter break in three weeks, will stay open “based on health advice”. Similar measures will be introduced for childcare centres.