Australia's borders officially closed to non-residents as coronavirus pandemic escalates

Australia has shut its borders to non-residents and non-citizens, and introduced stricter rules for indoor gatherings, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Police Officers patrolling in the Departures Hall of Sydney Domestic Airport.

Police Officers patrolling in the Departures Hall of Sydney Domestic Airport. Source: AAP

Australia has shut its borders to non-residents amid the coronavirus pandemic, as people are told to keep their distance from each other to stem the spread of infection.

The nation's borders were closed to non-residents and non-citizens on Friday night, while international flights leaving the country were grounded earlier this week.

Australians and their direct family members will still be allowed into the country but must self-quarantine for 14 days.

People have also been urged to reconsider non-essential domestic travel and leaders will consider further health advice on this when they next meet on Tuesday, ahead of school holidays starting in early April.

They will also look at "localised responses" and what would trigger any scaled-up response needed to shut down virus outbreaks in particular suburbs or towns.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday announced stricter rules for indoor gatherings that will affect places like restaurants, pubs and cinemas.

With the country's death toll rising to seven, indoor venues hosting non-essential gatherings will now have to make sure there are four square metres - about the size of a playground handball court - of space per person.

Outdoor events of more than 500 people were already banned and indoor gatherings restricted to 100.

The tougher rules came with stronger language from chief medical officer Brendan Murphy, who said everyone should be distancing themselves from every fellow Australian where possible.

"It's no point having a gathering of 20 people if it's in a tiny room and you're all together," he told reporters on Friday.

Social distancing means keeping a metre-and-a-half away from others, good hand hygiene, and staying home from work or the general community if you are unwell.

An 81-year-old NSW woman died on Thursday night, bringing the state's death toll to six and the national total to seven.

More than 800 people have been infected with the virus in Australia, with almost 50 now recovered.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor, don’t visit, or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

Published 21 March 2020 at 8:24am, updated 21 March 2020 at 9:43am