• People are seen at St Kilda Beach on March 27, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Getty Images AsiaPac)Source: Getty Images AsiaPac
Stricter social distancing measures introduced and increased restrictions on access to remote communities in the hope of slowing, and hopefully stopping, the spread of COVID-19.
Jack Latimore

28 Mar 2020 - 5:39 PM  UPDATED 28 Mar 2020 - 5:40 PM

A policeman and his wife who tested positive to COVID-19 remain in the Alice Springs hospital as the number of confirmed cases in the Northern Territory rose to 13 on Saturday, with two of the cases being interstate visitors.

The couple returned to their home near the remote central Australian community of Harts Range, around 200 kilometres from Alice Springs after returning to Australia from an overseas holiday last Sunday.

They flew into Yulara on a domestic flight before driving to their home where they became unwell and contacted the health service. A test kit was left outside the couple’s home and after testing positive they were escorted to the Alice Springs Hospital.

NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker said the couple maintained "complete separation" from the community and followed isolation procedures “to the letter”.
The commissioner said health staff and the local regional council in Harts Range had since been asked to leave by concerned community members, but stressed “there is no need for that”.

"I would like to apologise to the residents of the community near the Harts Range police station — which is some two and a half kilometres away — for the distress that has been caused to them by the actions of people external to the community making contact with them and creating a sense of fear and apprehension,” he said.

Mr Chalker said NT Health would trace potential contact and determine if any additional testing was needed in Harts Range.

On Thursday, the NT government introduced harsher restrictions on access to remote communities as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose from eight to 13.

The confirmed cases included another couple from Katherine a woman from Queensland.
The new measures introduced on Thursday night, which designate new biosecurity areas, were broadly backed by central and northern Land Councils to slow or stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Anybody wanting to enter the designated areas is required to self-quarantine for 14 days before entry, or demonstrate they are an essential worker and make an application under “special circumstances”.

Applications can only be approved by designated representatives of the NT government, the Federal Australian government, and the Land Councils.

The requirement affects all residents of towns, remote communities and homelands in the area under the BioSecurity Act 2015.

The designated biosecurity areas include:

  • Tiwi Islands
  • West Arnhem
  • East Arnhem
  • West Daly
  • Roper Gulf
  • Victoria Daly (excluding Pine Creek)
  • Barkly (excluding Tennant Creek)
  • McDonnell
  • Central Desert

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Stricter measures

Elsewhere around the states and territories, more restrictions on gatherings and firmer penalties on those failing to observe safe social distancing have been introduced.
In Tasmania, more than 700 compliance checks have been carried out on people ordered to self-isolate.

The number of COVID-19 positive cases in the state rose to 59 on Saturday, with 12 new cases, including a Mersey Community Hospital worker.

The island state is cracking down on overseas and interstate travellers, and has in place strict social measures banning gatherings of more than 10 people. Anyone who breaches the rules faces a fine of up to $16,800.

After 18 people were found to be violating rules around self-isolation, Premier Peter Gutwein urged those required to isolate themselves to observe the quarantine measures.
"This is not a game,” he said.

The number of cases in Victoria rose to 685, after another 111 COVID-19 positive cases were confirmed overnight, including up to 21 cases of “community transmissions”.

Victorians who breached social distancing rules designed to prevent the spread of the virus will face on-the-spot fines from today.

Police Minister Lisa Neville said individuals would face fines of up to $1,652 for gathering in groups and businesses would cop penalties of $9,913.

Meanwhile, beaches were closed on the state’s Mornington Peninsula and around Port Phillip after crowds of people flocked to St Kilda Beach on Friday, ignoring social distancing restrictions.

In South Australia, gathers of more than ten people face heavy on-the-spot fines as confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose to 257 in the state.

On Saturday morning, SA Premier Steven Marshall announced that from today individuals who failed to self-isolate when required would be issued a $1,000 fine and businesses "flouting laws" to control the pandemic faced a $5,000 fine.

"We are only as strong as our weakest link," he said.

In NSW, a woman in the Hunter region faces a $1,000 fine for twice flouting self-isolation measures after returning from an overseas trip.

NSW police said they also issued a $5,000 fine to a Sydney massage parlour for failing to close and a woman who returned home from Bali on Saturday.

The total number of confirmed cases in NSW stands at 1,617 with 170 community transmissions.

In Queensland, police said they had conducted around 1,000 compliance checks on people ordered to self-isolate. It currently has 625 COVID-19 positive cases.

In the west, A five-month-old baby was among 24 new COVID-19 positive cases in WA on Saturday, bringing the state's total to 255.

While in the ACT, nine new confirmed cases of COVID-19 brought the territory’s total to 71.

- with AAP

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