Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a ban on non-essential mass gatherings of 500 people in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus, effective Monday.
Australia has recorded 156 infections and three deaths from the flu-like disease but authorities expect this to increase rapidly in the coming weeks with the arrival of the southern hemisphere winter.
It comes as Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton tested positive for coronavirus, he said in a statement. His diagnosis was confirmed just days after meeting with presidential adviser Ivanka Trump in Washington DC, and being photographed next to her.
Desperate to contain the spread, Morrison said that his government will from Monday advise against non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people, though this does not include schools, airports or public transport.
“We will be advising against organised non-essential gatherings of persons of 500 people or greater from Monday,” Morrison told reporters in Sydney.
Morrison also said Australians should also reconsider their need for any overseas travel.
The virus has so far infected almost 135,000 and killed more than 4,900 worldwide.
The PM urged Australia to reconsider their need to travel overseas.
“We are effectively putting in place what is called a Level Three travel advice,” he told reporters.
“Only essential travel should be considered if you are going overseas from this point forward, and we would encourage Australians to heed that advice.”
Travel bans for China, Iran, South Korea and Italy, which have reported the highest numbers of people with the illness, have been extended by a week.
This means foreign nationals from these counties, who have been in any of the four nations, will not be allowed into Australia for 14 days from the time they left those countries.
Australians arriving from China, Iran, South Korea and Italy are allowed to enter but will be told to self-isolate for 14 days.
“You can’t stop Australians coming into their own country,” Morrison said the the press conference.
The PM had asked the nation’s chief medical officers to consider banning arrivals from other parts of Europe but, as of Friday, the government said there would be no ban on visitors from Europe.
Colin Packham of Reuters contributed to this report.