Easter travel ruled out for Australians

People have been warned to stick to social distancing rules as the coronavirus crisis continues.
People have been warned to stick to social distancing rules as the coronavirus crisis continues.

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy is pleading with Australians to forgo their usual Easter festivities next weekend and stick to social distancing measures to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

At least 34 Australians have now died from COVID-19, including four new fatalities in NSW, but a number of states have reported lower numbers of cases.

Professor Murphy said there were now 5687 cases across the country, a rise of 139 over the last 24 hours and probably the lowest that has been seen in the past few days.

However, about 10 per cent of these cases is where there is no known contact with another case.

"I may sound like a broken record at times but community transmission is what worries me most of all," Prof Murphy told reporters in Canberra on Sunday.

"Those are the reasons we have brought in the social distancing measures and all of those measures to stop the spread."

He said Easter was a time when people normally travelled, got together and had social gatherings but "we're asking you not to do that".

"We're asking you to stay with your family, in your residence, not travel where you might be unwittingly spreading the virus, not have parties where you might unwittingly be sharing the virus with people who don't have it," he said.

However, there was a rare light-hearted moment about the Easter Bunny.

"I'm told because he's a solo operator and an essential service, he or she, will be allowed to continue to operate," he quipped.

Queensland reported a fall in confirmed cases for the fourth day in a row, with just nine reported overnight. Victoria recorded just 20 new cases, while NSW - the hardest-hit state - recorded 87 new cases, bringing the state's total to 2580.

South Australian deputy chief medical officer Dr Michael Cusack was cautious about the low numbers.

"I guess people have less checks and tests over weekends so I wouldn't want to read too much into this but we have seen a gradual decline in recent days."

Using an AFL metaphor to describe the path of the COVID-19 ahead, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth said Australia was at the end of the first quarter in the grand final and a goal ahead.

"We know that if we work as a team and play as we are now, we can get the premiership, but we are a long way away from that being the case," he told Sky News.

"It is far too early to drop the ball and .... if we do stop these measures too early, then we have seen graphs in the media showing there could be a resurgence in cases so we have to be careful on those grounds."

A number of the cases and deaths came from cruise ships, including the Ruby Princess which was allowed to disembark passengers in Sydney before results of onboard swab tests from the cruise ship's passengers were known.

A total of 622 passengers onboard have tested positive for COVID-19 including 342 NSW residents. Some of those passengers have since died, including three of the four cases in NSW overnight.

Meanwhile, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has warned against using dodgy, imported home COVID-19 test kits, saying they pose to a risk to public health.

A number of these kits from China and Hong Kong have been intercepted by Australian Border Force officers in the past few weeks.

He warned using these kits would undermine the vital, lifesaving work of health professionals.

"Inaccurate results could prevent people from seeking the medical help they need, or alternatively, discourage people who should be self-isolating from doing so," Mr Dutton said.

Australian Associated Press