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Australian residents face $1600 fines for having friends over during coronavirus crisis

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. This virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China. (CDC/TNS)
March 31, 2020

Australian residents can no longer have friends over for dinner or a party under the city’s stage three phase of the its coronavirus plan.

Starting Monday, Australians can be fined up to AU$1600 for not abiding by the country’s quarantine policies, which bans all gatherings of more than two people, the Victorian Premier Daniels Andrews announced. The only exception is if they are part of the immediate household.

“This is critically important. We cannot have people out socializing and gathering as if this wasn’t happening. We have to protect the health system and we have got to save lives,” Andrews said.

According to Johns Hopkins latest tracking data, Australia has more than 4,300 confirmed cases and 17 deaths from the coronavirus, while 257 people have recovered.

In order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, Andrews explained that people should only be leaving their homes for work, exercise, to receive medical care, or to buy necessary supplies.

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“If everyone follows these rules — and they are as simple as they can be — then we will slow the spread of this virus. We will save lives, we will protect our health system, we will get through this together and we will get to the other side of it quicker,” Andrews said Sunday morning.

“If you are outside, or in your backyard, gathering in more than two people, if you are having friends over for dinner or friends over for drinks that are not members of your household, then you are breaking the law,” he explained.

Andrews added that police won’t hesitate to issue the fines on the spot if people are caught gathering in groups of more than two.

States and territories will decide themselves if and how to enforce the new official policies, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday.

“States and territories will decide whether they proceed to make this an enforceable limit in the same way that the 10-person limit is already being enforced,” he said.

“But in all cases, this is the strong advice of all states and territories, that unless it’s your household, the family, those that are living at your residence, that being with only one other person as a gathering outside is what is required.”

The limitations on gatherings is one of the latest actions the country has taken in order to limit the spread of the deadly virus. Previous policies limited gatherings to ten people. The two-person limit is the strictest limitation to date, according to 7News Australia.

Australian Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Murphy described the rules as “radical.”

“We feel that it is really important that every Australian does the right thing because for these interventions to take effect, the science shows that you need more than 90 per cent of the population to be doing it all of the time,” he said.

Andrews also announced on Twitter on Monday a six-month ban on rental evictions in order to help people who have lost their jobs from the affects of the coronavirus.