Aust increasingly using law in virus fight
Australian governments are now turning to police-managed quarantine measures and the threat of fines and jail to battle coronavirus, as the death toll reaches 14.
All Australians returning home on cruise ships or international airports from midnight Sunday - and many before that - will live out their 14 days of quarantine in state-funded hotel rooms.
The doors will be guarded by state police, defence personnel or private security guards.
Two-thirds of Australia's more than 3580 cases have been linked to overseas travel, deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly said on Saturday.
"We really need to get on top of the people that have returned ... from these other countries that had a much wider and worse epidemic of COVID-19 than we currently do here in Australia," he told reporters, pointing to cruise ships, the US, UK and Italy as key sources.
Dr Kelly said most locally acquired cases have had clear contact with a known case of the novel coronavirus, making quarantine compulsory for returning travellers was very important and supported by the "very best" medical evidence.
NSW has hit 1617 cases, Queensland has notched its 625th case while Victoria recorded its highest daily rise of 111 to reach a total of 685.
The death toll is now 14 after a 91-year-old woman became the fourth resident of Sydney's Dorothy Henderson Lodge nursing home to die of the virus.
That nursing home cluster is now responsible for almost 20 cases.
Victoria on Saturday moved to enforce handing a $1600 ticket to travellers flouting quarantine orders and will now whack businesses breaching mass gatherings restrictions with a fine of up to $9900.
NSW has already hit at least one massage parlour with a $5000 fine and five people - including a recent arrival from Thailand - with $1000 fines for flouting virus orders.
Melbourne councils went as far as shutting beaches on Saturday as Victorian Liberal senator Sarah Henderson lamented the number of beachgoers on the Bellarine Peninsula and raised the prospect of closing the Great Ocean Road.
"It's a magnificent day but staying home saves lives," she tweeted.
Tasmania says it will extend the federal quarantine enforcement to all non-essential travellers, including Tasmanians returning home, arriving in the Apple Isle.
Compulsory quarantine isn't without a hitch.
Some of the 292 former Norwegian Jewel cruise ship passengers now holed up in Sydney's Swissotel have complained they have no fresh air and cannot receive food deliveries.
"Prisoners get treated better than we do," Melissa Ball said in a Facebook group of the quarantined guests.
Meanwhile, private and non-profit hospitals are calling for state and territory governments to help keep their staff employed and wards ready once elective surgeries stop on April 1.
"Hospitals cannot simply close down entire wards and ICUs, then turn them back on at the flick of a switch," Catholic Health Australia Chief Executive Officer Pat Garcia said on Saturday.
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