Asia Minute: Australia Tightens Social Distancing

Apr 1, 2020

Countries around the world are focused on “flattening the curve” of the spread of the coronavirus. In Australia, new rules have gone into effect as part of that effort.

Authorities in Australia say the pace of new coronavirus cases across the country is slowing, but they also warn it is not the time to let up on mitigation efforts.

As of Wednesday, local time Australia had approximately 4,800 cases of COVID-19 — with nearly half of them in the state of New South Wales, where the country’s largest city of Sydney is located.

New and more restrictive rules about social distancing came into effect starting yesterday, and they vary from state to state.

In New South Wales, public gatherings outside a family unit are now limited to just two people. Outdoor parks are being shut, and residents need to stay in their homes unless they have what the government calls a “reasonable excuse” for leaving. Violations can lead to fines equivalent to nearly 7,000 U.S. dollars and jail terms of up to six months.

A week and a half ago, the national government ordered the closing of pubs and cafes, movie theaters and places of worship — several days after barring foreigners from entering the country.

National and state authorities say they want to increase testing — especially in areas where cases appear in clusters. One of those clusters centers on Sydney’s Bondi Beach, which was packed with non-distancing partiers the same weekend Australia stopped accepting foreigners.