Thousands of people flying into Australia have started to be quarantined in makeshift facilities across the country, as governments turn to law and order to slow the coronavirus’s spread.
The total number of confirmed cases, based on a tally of numbers provided by health authorities in each state and territory, now stands at 3640.
There are 1617 in New South Wales, 685 in Victoria, 625 in Queensland, 287 in South Australia, 278 in Western Australia, 62 in Tasmania, 71 in the Australian Capital Territory and 15 in the Northern Territory.
There have been 14 deaths across the country. Yesterday a 91-year-old woman in Sydney became the most recent reported victim.
IS AUSTRALIA READY?
As the number of cases continued to rise yesterday, the government’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly sought to reassure Australians about the number of intensive care beds available in hospitals.
“I want to also address the issue of intensive care beds and hospital beds. And this question that keeps coming to us from various places, is Australia ready? Is the health care system ready?” Prof Kelly said.
“Well, I can really assure people that the healthcare system in Australia is very adaptable. And it is absolutely ready for this matter.
“In terms of intensive care, we have double the capacity and there are beds available right now with the ventilators right now to deal with people if they require it. It is a very small component of those now 3400 cases in Australia. Only 30 in total. And less than that currently.
“We have doubled the bed capacity in Australia right now and we are ready, well and truly ready, and we will not be seeing a peak on the 10 April, as has been reported in some places. That is not the case.”
ENFORCEMENT STEPS UP
Queensland Police have said they will step up enforcement measures for people disregarding directions and flouting isolation laws as communities work together to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The police can now issue on-the-spot fines of up to $13,345 for individuals and $66,672.50 for corporations that disobey the rules.
“Community members can expect to see an increase in police ensuring compliance of public health directions and taking enforcement action against those ignoring the laws,” a statement reads.
“Officers have the power to issue on the spot fines for anyone who does not comply with the directions.
“Public health directions have been put in place to keep everyone in our community safe, especially our most vulnerable.
“While police have been taking a considered and educational approach in undertaking compliance checks over several weeks, officers will be stepping up enforcement action for those blatantly disregarding directions.
“People who are deliberately flouting self-isolation directions, holding unlawful mass gatherings or conducting non-essential business not in compliance with directions may face on the spot fines or stronger penalties.”
Meanwhile a Sydney couple in their early twenties have been fined $1000 each for allegedly flouting their 14-day self-isolation instructions. The pair had arrived in the country from Thailand earlier this week.
Asked whether people in NSW were ignoring social distancing warnings, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said “most people” were actually obeying the rules.
“But there are still a proportion of the community who are not doing the right thing, and that is heartbreaking,” she said.
“We don’t want to have to make further decisions based on the irresponsible actions of a minority, but it only takes a handful of people to do the wrong thing and have this thing spread.”
She stressed that if the community transmission rate increased, stricter measures would be introduced.
However, she did note there had been some “positive results”, stressing that supermarket hoarding was unnecessary.
“We are starting to get some information which suggests those actions have resulted in some positive results… and that is why I am putting New South Wales on notice, just to say never, ever will you have to worry about getting what you need. Never, ever do you have to hoard from supermarkets.”
LIFELINE FOR STOOD DOWN WORKERS
The federal government is reportedly planning to offer income relief for the masses of suddenly unemployed Australians through a fiscal package covering a large portion of the wages for companies haemorrhaging business during the coronavirus-induced downturn.
Hundreds of thousands of workers have been stood down after the economy was crippled by social distancing measures introduced to control the spread of the deadly pandemic.
But Treasury is constructing a payment to subsidise cashflow shock fort those earning up to a middle income, according to the Australian Financial Review, believed to be similar to schemes introduced in the United Kingdom, Canada and Denmark which cover about 80 per cent of an employee’s wage.
The package is expected to be announced as early as Sunday and comes after leading economists and commentators had criticised the current stimulus measure.
Previously announced packages involve tax relief being gifted at the end of the financial year but many have questioned how the suddenly unemployed will be able to afford basic essentials in the immediate short term.