Australian PM announces stricter limits for indoor gatherings over COVID-19

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, March 20, 2020
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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday announced stricter restrictions on non-essential indoor gatherings, which had already been limited to 100 people.

Under the new rules each person at an indoor gathering must be provided with at least four square meters of space.

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia was 709 as of Friday morning - an increase of 25.4 percent from 565 on Thursday morning.

"The rise in the number of cases means we need to continue to take action to suppress the growth in these cases and to flatten the curve, which is something more Australians are becoming more familiar with," he said.

"So for example, if you've got a room, you've got premise, if you've got a meeting room or something like that, that's 100 square meters then you can have 25 people in that room.

"I know these rules will take some time for people to get used to, but I'd ask people to move as quickly as they can."

The prime minister also flagged "more advanced measures" in the near future, including "particular area" shut downs in the event of localized outbreaks of COVID-19.

"What we've asked for advice on is the density of those cases, how many cases in a particular area that triggers actions over and above what these general rules are that apply to those areas, and that would be staged up according to the level of that outbreak and what needs to be done wherever possible to shut that down," he said.

Meanwhile, Australia's Parliament will resume for just one day as coronavirus continues to spread in the country.

The House of Representatives, the lower house of Parliament, will resume on March 23 with only 90 out of 150 Members of Parliament (MPs) set to attend to legislate the government's 17.6-billion-Australian-dollar (10.3 billion U.S. dollar) economic stimulus package.

The federal budget for financial year 2020/21, which Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was due to announce on May 12, has been delayed until the first Tuesday in October.

The government has committed an extra 444.6 million Australian dollars (259.5 million U.S. dollars) for aged care facilities, most of which will go towards ensuring "the continuity of the workforce."

National Australia Bank (NAB) on Friday became the first Australia's big four banks to announce that it will allow personal home loan customers to pause repayments for up to six months in an attempt to stimulate the economy and relieve financial pressure.

Morrison on Friday confirmed that state governments were working on providing similar relief for renters.

"States also agreed today, and further work will be done on this, are working to identify how relief can be provided for tenants in both commercial tenancies and residential tenancies to ensure that in hardship conditions there will be relief that will be available and ensuring the tenancy legislation is protecting those tenants over the next six months at least," he said.

"Now I know that will mean something for landlords, just as the decision taken today means something for banks, just like the decisions we have already taken as a Commonwealth Government means things for our balance sheets and as a people for the Commonwealth Government as it does for the states.

"All Australians are going to be making sacrifices obviously, in the months ahead, and everyone does have that role to play and that will include landlords, at the end of the day for people who are enduring real hardship." 

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