Australia to deploy armed forces in coronavirus compliance battleChristian Fernsby ▼ | March 27, 2020
Australia is introducing enforced quarantine by midnight on Saturday for citizens returning home from overseas and will deploy the armed forces to ensure people already subjected to self-isolation measures are complying.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Topics: Australia coronavirus
“As time has gone on, the risk of those who are returning from other parts of the world actually increases,” Morrison said in a televised briefing.
Australia has already closed its borders to everyone but Australian citizens or residents returning home. Those returnees will now be detained in a hotel for two weeks, rather than trusted to go home and self-isolate.
The Australian Defence Force (ADF) will be sent out to check recent returnees are complying with the previous order to self-isolate at their home for the same period of time, a rare step in a country where the military is not often seen on the streets.
“The ADF will be there to put boots on the ground,” Morrison said.
The rate of infections across Australia remains much slower than in many other countries, but officials are concerned that the number of cases has accelerated over the past week, particularly in the most populated states of New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria. There have been 13 deaths nationally.
Despite the relatively low numbers, there has been frustration and anger over contradictory guidance from the federal government, state legislators and health officials in recent days over the necessary level of social distancing.
At the same media conference where Morrison announced returning Australians as the No. 1 issue to tackle, Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said the priority from a health perspective was preventing any potential spike in local transmissions.
“We’re not kidding ourselves - if community transmission becomes significant, that is the real serious concern,” Murphy said. “That’s why these social distancing measures are just so important.”
That has been a particularly thorny issue for Morrison’s government, which has said that schools should remain open and has so far backed away from the more sweeping lockdowns on public movement seen in Europe. ■