Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday told people not to go out in public with more than one other person to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, even as the country’s rate of infections showed signs of slowing.
In an evening news conference, Morrison also announced that all parks and other public spaces would close, and urged Australians over the age of 70 to self-isolate “to the maximum extent practical,” according to News.com.au.
“This is for their own protection to limit their interaction with others in the community,” he said.
Others should limit their time in public to shopping, personal exercise, medical appointments or essential work, Australian officials said.
“Anyone who doesn’t need to be out of their home should be in the home,” Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said. “This is radical.”
Morrison had previously limited public gatherings to no more than 10 people. He noted Sunday that the daily increase in new cases had dropped from 25 to 30 percent last week to 13 to 15 percent in recent days, suggesting the social distancing measures were working, but said the new measures were still necessary to prevent transmission, according to Reuters.
Earlier Sunday, Morrison unveiled a roughly $680 million spending package to expand a range of health services during the pandemic.
Most of the funds, about $412 million, will pay for an expansion of telemedicine services that allow doctors and patients to meet via video rather than in person, Australian media reported.
Another $74 million will cover for mental health services that have been in increasing demand as infections have risen, Morrison said.
“Australians, even though we have to be isolated, shouldn’t have to go through this alone,” said Morrison, according to the Mercury.
More than 4,000 people in Australia have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 16 have died.