NEWS
16/03/2020 4:49 PM AEDT | Updated 16/03/2020 5:09 PM AEDT

5 Things You Need To Know About Coronavirus Today - Monday 15 March

$50k fines, cases surge in NSW and supermarkets introduce shopping hour for the elderly and disabled.

Brendon Thorne/Getty Images
Passengers arrives at Sydney airport on March 16, 2020 in Sydney, Australia.

Coronavirus is dominating the headlines as the number of cases grows each day.

According to official figures at least 313 people in Australia have tested positive while five people have died after contracting COVID-19.  “All people who have died have been elderly,” Australian Government Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly said on Monday. 

The virus has infected more than 150,000 people worldwide and killed over 5,600.

Here are the latest updates out of Australia:

Penalties for travellers who don’t self-isolate

Scott Morrison has imposed a 14-day self-isolation on international travellers and banned cruise ships from foreign ports for 30 days.  

Those caught not complying with the self-isolation rule could be up for a fine.  Penalties vary for each state, for instance in Western Australia, fines will range from $5,000 to $50,000 under the state’s Public Health Act and the Emergency Management Act. 

WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said the extreme measures were put in place to protect the community adding “these are necessary times because it’s an extraordinary situation.”

People breaching a similar act in NSW will be liable for fines of $11,000 and a six month jail term, NSW Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant announced Monday.

NSW cases spike

The number of COVID-19 cases in NSW have almost doubled over the weekend.  

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said there had been 37 new cases reported in the 24 hours up to 11am on Monday.  

“It is starting to look as if there will be a fairly substantial, exponential increase in numbers over the next few weeks,” he told reporters. 

As the government urged people to stay home and practice social distancing, Sydney started to look like a ghost town, with some schools taking lessons online. 

Codes in crisis

As of Monday, both the AFL and NRL have resolved to play on with spectator bans for as long as they can reasonably do so.  

AFL players could be chartered around the country in private planes next week as a way of avoiding coronavirus spread, said AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh.

Some clubs are training in smaller groups, Port Adelaide midfielder Tom Rockliff said his club is practicing in groups of 10 people. 

Meanwhile more than 1200 players were told to dial in for en masse teleconference on Monday to discuss the future of the game.  

Channel Nine rugby league reporter Danny Weidler Tweeted that the NRL was nervous the AFL would cave and suspend the season and put even more pressure on Rugby League to shutter. 

NRL management warned of “catastrophic” financial losses if the season was to end, with Rugby League Commission boss Peter V’landys making an early plea for government assistance on Sunday.

The cash grab was bluntly rejected by Scott Morrison. 

“Obviously the NRL is not high on the list at the moment,” Morrison said on Monday. 

State of emergencies announced

ACT and Victoria declared states of emergency on Monday, giving health officials sweeping powers.

The proclamations allows the Victoria and ACT’s chief health officers near unchecked powers to contain the spread of the virus like the ability to issue fresh quarantine orders to cover entire suburbs, businesses or professions if deemed necessary.

“These powers have never been used before,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters in Melbourne. 

“This, I hope provides a clear sense about the unprecedented nature of this public health emergency, this really significant challenge.”

Darrian Traynor via Getty Images
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton speaks to the media at the State Control Centre on March 16, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Victorian cultural spaces will close temporarily to the public from today as a precautionary measure in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has also announced a State of Emergency would come into effect at midday, giving the Chief Health Officer powers to enforce 14-day isolation requirements for all travellers entering Australia and cancel mass gatherings of more than 500 people.

The Victoria state of emergency will run for four weeks, while the ACT declaration will be in force for at least a week.  Western Australia declared a state of emergency on Sunday.

Woolworths announces special shopping hours for elderly

From Tuesday, Woolworths will open exclusively for the elderly and those with a disability to shop from 7am to 8am. 

The move has been prompted by a celebrity campaign demanding grocery stores take action  after the unprecedented panic buying in supermarkets saw many elderly and vulnerable people missing out on vital items like toilet paper and soap.  

Comedian Celeste Barber urged Woolies, IGA and Aldi to take the steps during an Instagram Live with Hot Husband on Sunday night while Lisa Wilkinson delivered an emotional plea to supermarket bosses during The Project. 

“They (the elderly) will be feeling very scared right now and we need to put plans in place to make sure they’re not left behind.

“Supermarket bosses, can I suggest you leave that first hour of trading each day for the elderly or those with disabilities ― or those that can prove they are shopping for them.”