Tourists are seen at a dock in Sydney, Australia, March 10, 2020. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Australia has reached 100, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced on Tuesday. (Xinhua/Bai Xuefei)
Tourists are seen at a dock in Sydney, Australia, March 10, 2020. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Australia has reached 100, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced on Tuesday. (Xinhua/Bai Xuefei)

Australians have been told to spend the upcoming Easter holidays at home, despite the number of new COVID-19 cases flattening.

The country recorded less than 100 new cases in a 24-hour period, taking the total number of infections beyond 6,000, with a death toll of 51.

New infections were down compared with previous weeks but authorities said that Australians should remain vigilant nonetheless.

Normally thousands of Aussies would be taking advantage of the four-day Easter break to go on holiday and spend time with family and friends. However this year those who do this face fines and even jail time.

“The virus does not take a holiday — therefore none of us can relax in what we do,” Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters on Thursday.

“This in many ways is the most important weekend we may face in the whole course of the virus.”

Hunt also announced that roughly 11 million much-needed face masks would be distributed among health workers, with large shipments of medical supplies arriving from China in recent days.

However, speaking alongside Hunt, Australian Medical Association (AMA) President Tony Bartone said the majority of Australians should not be wearing masks unless absolutely necessary.

“I must remind Australians that the wearing of masks down the street of the central business district is really an inordinate waste of valuable resources,” Bartone said.

“They’re masks that potentially could be used in a healthcare setting.”

The government also revealed that 2,000 ventilators had been commissioned to be built in the state of Victoria and would be fast tracked to get them into hospitals by the end of July.

Meanwhile, the state of New South Wales (NSW) brought in different measures to support frontline health workers, some of whom have reported being abused while wearing their uniforms in public.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard declared a 5,000-Australian dollar (3,100-U.S. dollar) fine for anyone threatening to infect frontliners, including police and medical staff, with COVID-19.

“Unfortunately, we have had a series of incidents now where some of the most incredible frontline workers, keeping us safe, have actually had people spitting on them and people coughing on them,” Hazzard said.

Striking a more optimistic tone, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk followed other world leaders in assuring Aussie kids that the Easter Bunny would still be visiting to bring chocolate to them over the weekend.

“I’ve spoken with the Chief Health Officer and the Police Commissioner,” she said. “The Easter Bunny has been granted special permission to come to Queensland this year!” Enditem

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