As Australia’s coronavirus tally stands at over 3,600 cases as of Sunday morning with two new deaths confirmed bringing the toll to 16, further harsher measures to battle the spread of the disease are taking effect across the country.
Mandatory hotel quarantine for overseas arrivals has rolled out, while police are deployed at popular beaches to avoid a Bondi-like situation.
The latest casualties are a 75-year-old woman in Queensland who had been a passenger on the Ruby Princess cruise ship and a man in his 80s who died in a Melbourne hospital, the fourth COVID-19 death in Victoria.
In Queensland there were 31 new cases recorded overnight with the current total amounting to 656, with a new ban was announced on Sunday morning for gatherings of 10 or more people at houses.
In Victoria the latest reported total number is 769, after 84 new cases confirmed overnight.
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Friday, from Saturday night all returning Australians from overseas are now being quarantined in hotels and other accommodation facilities.
On Sunday morning in Melbourne, there was heavy police and security presence at Crown’s Promenade Hotel where a number of arrivals will be staying for the 14-day required period of self-isolation.
States and territories will be assuming the cost of funding hotel rooms and makeshift quarantine facilities.
RESTRICTIONS TARGETING BEACHES AND GROUP GATHERINGS
Meanwhile, stricter measures have been enacted over the last couple of days in Victoria and South Australia.
Speaking on Saturday morning in Melbourne, Premier Daniel Andrews warned of imminent beach closures if people continued to defy orders to practice social distancing.
“If you can stay home, you must stay home,” Mr Andrews said.
“You don’t need to be at the beach. If you choose to be at the beach then that is a choice that may cost someone their life.
“I’ve closed the pubs because no one has to go to the pubs. If I have to close the beaches, I will. Be in no doubt about that.”
The Premier clarified that “spending the day at the beach is not OK”.
The statements came a day after Port Phillip City Council’s restrictions came into effect, clamping down on big group gatherings at its beaches, including the popular St Kilda Beach, where people were seen ignoring requests for not congregating in groups.
The state’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton did not hesitate to use strong language to condemn the behaviour.
Individuals can still visit beach settings at the moment for a stroll or to walk their dog for example, provided that social distancing measures are followed.
Police will be issuing on-the-spot fines of up to $1,652 for those not complying and gathering in groups, said Police Minister Lisa Neville.
As of Friday, South Australia has put a number on the gatherings ban with no more than 10 people allowed to congregate.
Any breach would be treated as an offence, according to the SA police announcement, stating that even for groups smaller than 10, people would need to follow the one person per four square metres rule.
$1.1 BILLION FUNDING INJECTION FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE INITIATIVES
At a Sunday morning press conference, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a $1.1 billion healthcare package.
The lion’s share of the funding, $669 million is channelled towards Medicare subsidised telehealth services, with $74 million funding mental health support and $150 million directed to family violence services.
“Google has shown a 75 per cent increase in searches when it comes to concerns about domestic violence in recent days,” Mr Morrison said during the announcement.
The telehealth services backed by the funding allow people see a GP via video video conferencing , with the Prime Minister explaining:
“We are asking Australians to stay home, particularly older Australians.
“We want to ensure that they can continue to get access to healthcare and health advice and support from GPs, which is why this measure is being put in place.”
An additional $200 million will be given to charities and community organisations providing emergency food relief support.
“It will be shared among existing providers, including FoodBank, the Salvation Army, St Vincent DePaul, Anglican and many other local community organisations.”
“These services are demand driven, but we anticipate the funding boost, which is more than four times annual funding, will help hundreds of thousands of Australians in most urgent need,” Mr. Morrison said.