Australians are facing tighter restrictions on where they can go as the coronavirus takes hold. Image by Scott Barbour/AAP PHOTOS

Health

New outdoor rules as 16 die from virus

2020-03-30 20:36:25

No more public gatherings of more than two people is the new rule, as governments seek to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Sixteen Australians have now died after contracting COVID-19 but the rate of infections has dipped to nine per cent, from a high of 30 per cent.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders on Sunday agreed on medical advice to further tighten the rule around gatherings from 10 to two.

It will be up to the individual states and territories whether it is strictly enforced by police. The move won’t mean a ban on a family of more than two people from going for a walk.

As well, there is new advice relating to who should self-isolate.

People aged over 70 or having chronic illnesses will be discouraged from leaving their homes unless they require medical care.

Mr Morrison said the measure was for the protection of the individuals – who could face more severe effects from the virus – rather than the general public.

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said the possibility of community transmission was worrying officials the most, which was why the “radical” new public interaction rules were needed.

Community transmission is the spread of the virus to a person without known links to a known case.

“It is of concern, particularly in Sydney and to a lesser extent in Melbourne and southeast Queensland,” Professor Murphy said.

“If you have outbreaks in the community, they can be much harder to detect and so we’ve broadened the testing criteria in those areas to make sure that we can detect and bring under control.”

The prime minister also said he has struck a deal with the states for a moratorium on the eviction of struggling residential renters.

The national death toll reached 16 following the deaths of two more people in Victoria and Queensland overnight, as new quarantine measures for international arrivals kick in across the country.

A man aged in his 80s died of coronavirus in hospital in Victoria, while a 75-year-old woman died in Queensland after travelling on the Ruby Princess cruise ship that docked in Sydney.

Victoria and Queensland’s death tolls have now risen to four and two, respectively.

Announcing a new $1.1 billion health package to deal with the COVID-19 crisis earlier on Sunday, Mr Morrison said greater cooperation in terms of self-isolation and social distancing was delivering dividends.

“They are still strong rates of increase, there’s no doubt about that,” the prime minister said.

“But as we take the measures that we have been taking and put them in place and we have the co-operation from the Australian people, then that obviously in turn that has an impact on how we are managing the spread of the virus.”

Meanwhile, 1600 people arriving back in Australia have been taken into quarantine for 14 days in hotels around the country.

“I know this is a terrrible inconvenience for you but it is necessary to save lives and we thank you for your cooperation,” Mr Morrison said.

About 350 defence force personnel are helping enforce the isolation.

“We will treat these people with absolute respect and dignity but we will need their support,” NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said.

“The 14 days, I am sure, will be a challenge for them and perhaps the food is not up to standard or they feel that the bed is not as comfortable as their own.

“They need to understand that we are trying to protect the community of NSW.”