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Banks unveil $8 billion lifeline as COVID-19 death toll rises to seven

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The banking industry has stepped forward with an $8 billion lifeline to small businesses affected by coronavirus and flagged more to come on residential mortgages, as the death toll climbs to seven.

Meanwhile, bars, cafes and restaurants are bracing for new restrictions on indoor gatherings after the most dramatic day of the outbreak so far, when the PM yesterday announced Australia would be closing its borders and Tasmania effectively shut itself off from the rest of the country.

It came as new restrictions were placed on medicine purchases, the Aussie dollar fell to a 17-year low of 55 US cents, the RBA announced an emergency rate cut and national carrier Qantas stood down 20,000 employees amid what CEO Alan Joyce described as a crisis “worse than the GFC”.

Australia now has 756 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 353 in New South Wales, 150 in Victoria, 144 in Queensland, 42 in South Australia, 52 in Western Australia, 10 in Tasmania, four in the Australian Capital Territory and one in the Northern Territory.

Seven people have died – one in Western Australia and six in New South Wales – and 43 have recovered.

Spot checks will be carried out in Tasmania to ensure people are following strict coronavirus border control measures.

From midnight on Friday, all people entering the island state bar “essential” travellers will have to quarantine themselves for 14 days.

“We will be doing some spot audits,” Premier Peter Gutwein said on Friday, adding those in quarantine will be provided daily updates from the state government about their obligations.

Health and emergency workers, senior government officials and transport staff are considered “essential” travellers and among those exempt from mandatory quarantine.

The move, announced on Thursday, has been backed by state Labor, the Greens and the state’s peak tourism and business bodies.

“These restrictions, and I make no apologies for them, they will be difficult for some people but we need to ensure that we keep Tasmanians safe,” Mr Gutwein said.

Ten virus cases have been recorded in Tasmania, but none through local transmission.

The most recent were two men and a woman who tested positive on Wednesday after travelling overseas.

About 800 coronavirus tests have been carried out in the state.

– Ethan James, AAP

Written by: Daz

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