Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced last night that public and private gatherings will now be limited to two people.
The new rule comes after last week’s national shutdown of many businesses and Morrison’s warning of “more draconian” measures to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bars, clubs, gyms, and sex on premises venues are among the businesses closed for the foreseeable future.
The new restrictions apply to gatherings in all settings, including private properties, meaning people are no longer permitted to have more than one guest in their home, ABC News has reported.
Exceptions include households of more than two, and partners and families who live separately, who will remain able to visit each other.
Morrison said that acceptable reasons to leave the house are buying essentials, medical care, exercise, and work or education that is not possible remotely.
Guidelines recommend keeping a distance of at least 1.5 metres between people to help reduce the risk of virus transmission.
Police have been granted increased powers to monitor and penalise people’s movements that may breach the new rules.
Each state and territory will set its own fines, which may be issued on the spot.
Several people in New South Wales, including three sex workers, have already been arrested and fined for breaching physical distancing rules.
In addition to the new rules, people aged 70 and over are advised to stay home and self-isolate to protect their own health.
Those aged over 60 with a chronic illness, and Indigenous people aged over 50, have also been advised to consider isolation.
Non-urgent elective surgeries will be postponed from Thursday in an effort to preserve hospital resources.
These include procedures such as cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries.
Emergency and urgent surgeries will continue.
Prime Minister Morrison said the measures will be indefinite but “temporary”.
Almost 4,000 cases of COVID-19 have so far been confirmed in Australia.
Health experts have advised that the duration of the pandemic will depend on the effectiveness of physical distancing practices.