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Australia cracks down on social gatherings, announces new payments for workers

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2020-03-30 13:36:37Xinhua Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download
Special: Battle Against Novel Coronavirus

Social gatherings have been limited to two people in key Australian states, as the number of COVID-19 cases nationally passed 4,000 and virus related deaths reached 18.

New payments to keep workers in jobs were also announced, costing the government 130 billion Australian dollars (79.8 billion U.S. dollars).

Two Australian regions, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), recorded their first COVID-19 related deaths.

State leaders enacted stricter social distancing measures following advice from Prime Minister Scott Morrison who said that the cooperation of all Australians was vital in stopping the spread of COVID-19.

"Up until now, there has been a restriction of 10 people in a gathering in an outdoor area or in a shopping centre or anything like this. That advice has now been strengthened to say that it should be reduced to two persons in public spaces and other areas of gathering," Morrison said.

The advice said all Australians should continue to stay indoors as much as possible, however this was not directly enforceable in most regions.

Stricter rules came into effect in the southern island state of Tasmania with Premier Peter Gutwein taking an unapologetically direct approach.

"From midnight tonight, unless you are going to work or school, getting essential or medical supplies, exercising (or) providing compassionate care, you will need to remain in your primary place of residence and you will be committing an offence if you don't," Gutwein said.

Meanwhile, Australians returning to the country entered a mandatory 14 day quarantine, many in luxury hotels overlooking the world famous Sydney Harbor.

Those returning from overseas were confined to their rooms with police and Australian Defence Force personnel ensuring that the isolation was enforced.

Also, the federal government announced further economic subsidies to support businesses and individuals affected by the pandemic.

Morrison announced a 130-billion-Australian-dollar (79.8 billion U.S. dollar) package which involved payments for workers, through their employers, to soften the blow for individuals, and maintain a viable workforce for when the crisis ends.

"With the twin battles that we face and that we fight against a virus and against the economic ruin that it can threaten. This calls for unprecedented action," Morrison said.

"It's been about keeping Australians in jobs, keeping Australian businesses in business, and it's been about cushioning the blow for those who most significantly will be impacted by strengthening our social safety net."

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