Australia restricts public gathering to two; fine, jail as punishment

Australia is limiting public gatherings to just two people, and will impose fines and jail terms to enforce the new rule, as the country tightens social-distancing controls, following the rise of the nation’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic, despite a slowdown in new infection cases.

The enforcement of the new rules is at each state’s discretion. Victoria will slap on-the-spot fines of A$1,652 (US$1,021) for individuals and A$9,913 for businesses that breach these rules. In New South Wales (NSW), people could also face six months’ jail.

Australia restricts public gatherings to two people; people walking on the streets of Sydney’s CBD pictured

Under the new directive, Australian authorities have made known that there are only four reasons people should be leaving their homes: shopping for food and essential supplies; medical care or compassionate needs; exercise in compliance with the two-person rule; and work and education, if one is unable to do that remotely.

The NSW government has also advised individuals to stay 1.5m away from others at all times when they are out.

Meanwhile, Tasmania became the country’s first state to ban people from alternating between their main home and their second home.

The country has seen the rate of new infections halved in the past week, under existing restrictions on movement to about 4,200 people nationally; however, the death toll rose to 17.

Amid business closures to stem the virus spread and resulting massive lay-offs, Australian authorities have announced a six-month moratorium on evictions for commercial and residential tenants in financial distress due to the economic shock from the coronavirus outbreak.

On Monday, the government also unveiled a third rescue package to the tune of A$130 billion to support “hibernating” Australian businesses and their employees so as to prevent further job cuts during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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