CANBERRA (BLOOMBERG) - Australian authorities will quarantine anyone arriving in the nation's airports to slow the spread of the coronavirus, amid concern some residents returning home were failing to self-isolate.
The defence force will be deployed to enforce the measures, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters on Friday (March 27) after a meeting of the National Cabinet.
"These important actions are the most important we can take right now," Mr Morrison said. This is where "the most critical concern is."
The government has moved incrementally to shut down society, closing pubs and casinos, barring non-essential travel and closing its borders to non-residents. Yet still the number of infections has grown, reaching 2,985 earlier on Friday and 13 deaths, with most of the cases linked to overseas arrivals.
Since the start of the month, Australia has announced two stimulus packages worth about A$80 billion (S$69.6 billion) that were passed by Parliament. The central bank has also weighed in and together they have unleashed fiscal and monetary stimulus totalling A$189 billion.
Mr Morrison said on Friday that the government is preparing a third tranche of stimulus to support commercial tenants and ultimately residential tenants.
The closure of many non-essential services such as pubs, casinos and gyms has wreaked havoc on Australia's economy, with long queues of newly jobless citizens forming outside welfare agencies.
Mr Josh Williamson, a senior economist for Australia at Citigroup Inc, estimates about 440,000 people will have lost their jobs by the third quarter, with the unemployment rate peaking at 8.4 per cent.
Mr Morrison has faced criticism from some who believe the government is over-reacting and from those who want more stringent controls before the country slips into an Italy-style crisis.
Education has been the biggest bugbear for Australian parents. In New South Wales state, for instance, schools remain open and the authorities insist they are safe. Yet parents are being encouraged to keep their children home.