Scott Morrison announces further restrictions
At a press conference on Sunday evening, the prime minister outlined the latest measures to tackle the coronavirus outbreak. The main points were:
Outdoor gatherings should now be restricted to a maximum of two people
No one should leave their house except for essential shopping, exercise, medical appointments or work, if they cannot work from home
All over-70s are “strongly advised” to stay indoors at all times, as well as over-60s with chronic illnesses and Indigenous people over 50
There will be a six-month moratorium on evictions from rental properties, with details to be worked out by the states and territories
Public areas such as playgrounds, outside gyms and skateparks will be closed from Monday.
National death toll mounts to 16
Two more Australians have died of Covid-19. A Melbourne man in his 80s died in hospital, bringing the number of deaths in Victoria to four. A 75-year-old woman died at Caboolture hospital, after returning to Queensland from the Ruby Princess cruise ship. And New Zealand recorded its first death.
Optimism over latest figures
More than 350 cases were added to the national count on Sunday, but Scott Morrison said the daily rate of increase had declined from 25%-30% a week ago to as low as 9% on Sunday. The health minister, Greg Hunt, went as far as to say there were “early signs of flattening of the curve” and the chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, suggested there was “evidence that the public health measures that we are putting in place and the social distancing measures are likely to be having some early effect”. But all cautioned that it was too soon to be certain of a solid trend.
Wage subsidies promise
The government’s forthcoming wage guarantee will include people who have already lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, it was announced on Sunday morning, but Morrison gave no details on how it would work, other than that it would be in addition to measures already announced.
Returning travellers quarantined
About 1,600 Australians returning from overseas were the first to go into isolation in hotels for 14 days, after being processed by border force officers and seen by health officials. Early indications were that procedures at airports had been significantly tightened and streamlined since the chaotic scenes in Sydney last week.
There have now been 215 cases of coronavirus nationally from passengers on the Ruby Princess, of which 189 are in NSW. The latest figures also show 59 confirmed cases in NSW from the Ovation of the Seas, and 23 cases from the second cruise of the Voyager of the Seas.
More than 200 Australian cruise passengers from the Costa Luminosa and Costa Victoria were told they would be able to board a flight from Rome to Perth on Sunday evening. But any passengers who tested positive for Covid-19 would not be allowed to board, and it was unclear what would happen to them.
WhatsApp and iPhone app launched
Scott Morrison announced the release of a new Covid-19 messaging service on WhatsApp and an Apple iPhone app to disseminate public health advice and allow people self-isolating to register their status. The app had been downloaded almost half a million times by Sunday evening, the prime minister said.
$1.1bn extra for health and family violence services
The federal government announced expanded funding for telehealth, domestic violence support and mental health services, as well as for boosting emergency relief delivered through charities and community organisations. The package includes:
$669m for telehealth so people can get support from GPs and health advice from home
$74m for mental health support
$150m for domestic violence services, including 1800 RESPECT and Mensline
$200m for emergency relief support including Foodbank, Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul, Anglicare and other charities