Victoria and the ACT have joined Queensland in declaring a state of emergency as the state governmental response to COVID-19 takes on increased urgency.

The Queensland, NSW and Victorian governments have indicated there’ll be harsh punishments for people who fail to self-isolate. As of midnight last night, all overseas arrivals are being told to self-isolate for a period of 14 days. State governments are making sure people realise this is a mandatory requirement.

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian told a press conference this morning that NSW police will fine or imprison people who’re defying instructions to self-isolate, as The Guardian reports. Berejiklian also indicated that people who go against the government’s imposed ban on events of more than 500 people would risk arrest.

Queensland’s Annastacia Palaczszuk referred to a similar range of punitive measures, with those failing to self-isolate exposing themselves to a $13,000 fine. As for hosting events in excess of 500 people, “there’s a hefty fine and also potential jail time,” said Palaczszuk.

A state of emergency is now in effect in Victoria and will last for four weeks. This is just a provisional time period, however, with premier Daniel Andrews expecting it to last a lot longer. “[A state of emergency] will be in place for as long as it needs to be,” Andrews said this morning. Andrew Barr, chief minister of the ACT, has also declared a state of emergency.

Despite the emphasis on social distancing and self-isolation, there are currently no plans to enforce the widespread closure of schools. Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed this was the case during an interview on Sky this morning.

General Practitioner Dr Vyom Sharma spoke to 3RRR radio this morning about the unrivalled effectiveness of social distancing in curbing the spread of COVID-19.

“Every specialist in infective disease, every epidemiologist, and every serious doctor in the country knows [how serious this outbreak is],” said Sharma.

“The virus will kill – if we are lucky – tens of thousands of people. Everyone is at risk, not just the old and vulnerable. And we know the solution, which is social distancing and we have proof that it works.”

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