Australians arriving home from overseas will be forced to serve out a two week quarantine in city hotels, with the rules enforced by the military.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced arrivals from overseas will be put into quarantine beginning at 11.59pm on Saturday night.
The measures were vital as two thirds of the 3,050 confirmed Australian cases of COVID-19 are arrivals from overseas, he said.
Mr Morrison confirmed the Australian Defence Force (ADF) will help state and territory police ensure ‘compliance’ to the new rules.
Mr Morrison, flanked by Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy, said: ‘By no later than midnight tomorrow – that is 11:59pm Saturday – states and territories will be quarantining all arrivals through our airports in hotels and other accommodation facilities for the two weeks of their mandatory self-isolation before they are able to return to their home.’
Return travellers will be quarantined in hotels in the city where they fly into Australia, he said.
‘If their home is in South Australia or in Perth or in Tasmania and they have arrived in Melbourne, they will be quarantining in Melbourne.’
The number of arrivals at Australian airports has plunged from about 48,725 people last year to 7,120 on Thursday.
About 288 cruise ship passengers who have tested positive to coronavirus are already being held at a Swissotel on Market St in Sydney’s CBD.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the state has 5,000 rooms ready to accommodate, feed and transport arrivals in that state.
‘Police, health, will be able to monitor compliance at a static location,’ Mr Andrews said.
The prime minister said the nation is battling both a virus and economic crisis.
He revealed the Federal government will release a third stimulus package – dubbed ‘hibernation’ measures – in the days to come.
That package will help businesses ‘hibernate’ through a six month shutdown period, he said.
Those measures will include assistance for residential and commercial tenants, but the details of the package have not been ironed out.
‘Both (crises) will take lives, both will take livelihoods,’ the prime minister said.
‘And it’s incredibly important to make sure we continue to battle both these enemies to Australia’s way of life.’
Restaurants and cafes (except takeaway), gyms, clubs, pubs, beauty salons and massage parlours were all closed under previous Stage Two restrictions.
Weddings have been limited to five people and funerals to just 10, with auction houses and open homes closed.
Mr Morrison thanked Australians for making changes to their livelihoods and said the number of people moving around the major cities in the past two weeks had dropped by as much as 80 per cent.
‘Thank you, keep doing it, you’re saving lives and you’re saving livelihoods,’ he said.
‘We’ve called on you as Australians to combine in this effort and your response in this past week has been magnificent.
‘I would rather be in Australia right now … than any other country in the world right now.’
The country’s border has been closed to all foreigners for more than a week but some experts are still calling for more action to stop the spread of COVID-19.