Canberra Covid19 cases

A woman wearing a face mask is seen at Canberra Airport in Canberra, Australia, March 16, 2020. The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia increased almost 20 percent in a single day, from 249 on Sunday to 298 Monday morning. The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has declared a public health state of emergency amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Courtesy: Chu Chen/Xinhua/IANS

Australian states on Tuesday warned the public to abide by new social distancing and isolation rules imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic or face severe consequences including jail time.

The restrictions came into place in a number of states on Monday limiting the number of people in a social gathering to two and forcing people to remain in their homes unless they have a “reasonable excuse” to venture outside, reports Xinhua news agency.

In the hardest hit state of New South Wales, which has recorded over 2,000 coronavirus cases, residents are not permitted to leave their homes other than for a handful of reasons including buying groceries and exercising.

Anybody breaking the rules could face an A$11,000 fine ($6,800), up to six months in jail, or both.

Other valid reasons to travel outside include work and school which could not be done at home, as well as visiting parents and siblings.

Similar restrictions are also enacted in Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland and Western Australia (WA), with the rules in Victoria limiting gatherings within private residences, and individuals facing fines of up to A$16,000 ($9,800).

“Victoria Police will not hesitate to take action against you, that is how serious this is. No one in my position enjoys doing this,” state Premier Daniel Andrews said.

“We’re not doing it for any other reason than this is life and death, if we allow our health system to be overrun, then people will die.”

Meanwhile in WA, police revealed that they would be deploying drones in public spaces to enforce social gathering rules.

The drones would be equipped with lights, sirens and speakers, and could be operated from up to 1 km away.

“I understand this is extreme and draconian, this is not normal but we want to send a message to people,” WA Premier Mark McGowan said on Monday.

“The primary objective is to reinforce the serious nature of the environment we’re in.”

Source: IANS