The seventh person died in Australia after contracting COVID-19 as confirmed cases skyrocketed to over 700 on Friday, with 144 new cases in 24 hours.
An 81-year-old woman passed away on Thursday night after coming in contact with the virus at a Sydney hospital.
The state of New South Wales, of which Sydney is the capital, remained at the centre of the outbreak, with all but one of the country’s deaths and around half of all confirmed cases, with at least 382 people testing positive.
Over 1,000 people who disembarked in Sydney from a cruise ship on Thursday were told to self-isolate after a number of other passengers tested positive for the virus.
‘The very big concern is that those people came off the cruise with no knowledge of COVID actually being on their ship,’ NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.
‘And for that reason, if they think that it’s not necessary to do the 14 days, and if they think that it’s OK to be wandering around, the clear message from me as NSW health minister is, no, it’s not.’
Fearing a sharp increase in the number of transmissions, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison on Friday placed a ban on all non-essential indoor gatherings of over 100 people, and recommended limits on the amount of people in enclosed spaces.
On Thursday Morrison shut the country’s borders to everyone except citizens and permanent residents.
Meanwhile, eligible small businesses and mortgage payers in Australia will be able to defer loan payments for a period of six months under a plan put forward by the country’s banks on Friday.
The move follows an emergency interest rate cut by the Reserve Bank of Australia on Thursday, taking the cash rate to an historic low of 0.25 per cent.
‘Our focus is clear — to support our business and personal customers with their financial needs when they need it most,’ National Australia Bank CEO Ross McEwan said.
‘These measures will provide significant relief to businesses and homebuyers over the next six months as we all deal with this unprecedented situation.
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