Australia has inched closer to a total public lockdown in everything but name, as further social restrictions were introduced by the prime minister Scott Morrison on Sunday evening. They will come into effect from Monday, March 30.
- Public gatherings are to be capped to two people, reduced from the 10-person limit introduced last week.
- Outdoor gyms, playgrounds, and skate parks are to be closed.
- Group boot camp-style training is also banned, although one-on-one personal training is still permitted.
While Australia is not entering an official lockdown – such as those introduced to tackle major breakouts in Spain, the UK, Italy, China and the US – the prime minister urged the public to embrace similar restraints.
- Australians should only leave their homes when absolutely necessary: to shop for essential supplies and groceries, for medical appointments or compassionate commitments, to exercise (in compliance with physical distancing rules), or to go to work if they are unable to work from home.
- People aged over 70, those with chronic illnesses over 60, and First Nations people over 50, are “strongly advised” to self-isolate, for possibly six months.
The government has also introduced a new app as well as a collaboration with popular messaging service WhatsApp to ensure the Australian public can get up-to-the-minute information on the spread of Covid-19. The Coronavirus Australia app is available for download via the Apple App Store and Google Play, or you can activate the WhatsApp service by visiting oz.gov.au/whatsapp.
The spread of the coronavirus in Australia is showing some early signs of slowing, according to the government’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy. This is partly due to the stricter quarantine measures put in place on Friday requiring all returnees to Australia to be isolated in hotels for 14 days. However, the threat of community transmission – where the spread of infection can no longer be traced – remains very real, particularly in Sydney, which currently has more than double the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases than any other state or territory in the country.
Both Morrison and Murphy praised the majority of Australians for following physical distancing measures and abiding by the growing list of social restrictions brought in to curb the spread of the pandemic disease. However, some people continue to ignore bans on public gatherings, particularly in parks and other outdoor spaces. On-the-spot fines of $1000 for ignoring physical distancing rules have been introduced and will continue to be enforced, Morrison warned.