MELBOURNE: Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday (Mar 29) that public gatherings should not exceed two people and Australians should go out only when necessary, while those over 70 should self-isolate to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus.

Morrison said that people “must stay home” unless going out to do essential shopping, exercises, for medical appointments or to work and education if they cannot work or learn remotely.

READ: Australia tightens social distancing rules to combat coronavirus, warns of fines

He also said that there would be a six-month moratorium on evicting people who find themselves in financial distress.

The rate of spread of the novel coronavirus in Australia has halved in recent days, Morrison said on as he announced an additional AUD$1.1 billion (US$680 million) to expand telemedicine care and other health services.

The daily increase in cases in recent days was at about 13 -15 per cent, down from 25-30 per cent seen a week ago, showing social distancing measures were working, Morrison said.

“These are still strong rates of increase, no doubt about that,” Morrison said in televised remarks.

There were 3,809 confirmed cases in Australia early on Sunday, 431 more than in the previous day, according to health ministry. Sixteen deaths were attributable to the virus, health officials said.

Neighbouring New Zealand saw its first death related to the coronavirus on Sunday, with cases rising to 514 confirmed infections.

READ: Australia introduces enforced quarantine for returning citizens

Two-thirds of the cases in Australia have been traced to contact with people returning from overseas, government officials said.

State leaders, however, are worried about the recent rise in community transmission, especially in the most populous New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria, where more than half of Australia’s 25.5 million people live.

Australia has introduced a series of measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, but state and federal governments have sent some mixed messages about social distancing and other containment measures, leading to widespread confusion.

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