Australia’s biggest cities Sydney and Melbourne to shutdown

Trains running every three minutes from Chatswood kept the platform clear between 8.30 and 9am on Monday. CREDIT: PETER RAE. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

SYDNEY, Mar 22, 2020, BBC. Australia’s two biggest cities will shut down non-essential services in the next 48 hours as coronavirus cases rise rapidly in the country. Sydney and Melbourne, along with the capital Canberra, are expected to close pubs and restaurants after announcements by state governments, BBC reported.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said total lockdowns might have to be introduced to curb the spread.

The number of cases has risen sharply in recent days, reaching 1,315.

New South Wales (NSW), home to Sydney, is the worst-affected state with 533 confirmed cases. Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, has 296 cases, while Queensland has 259.

The new restrictions will see many businesses close but supermarkets, petrol stations, pharmacies and home delivery services will continue running.

Schools in NSW remain open for now but Victorian schools will close from Tuesday after school holidays were brought forward.

If the shutdown of non-essential services is not implemented, “our hospitals will be overwhelmed and more Victorians will die,” Victoria’s state premier Daniel Andrews was quoted as saying by broadcaster ABC.

Seven people have died across Australia so far from Covid-19.

In other developments:

  • The prime minister announced new stimulus measures to boost the economy
  • South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory will close their borders from Tuesday. Under the new rules, anyone arriving will be forced to self-isolate for 14 days
    Tasmania, an island state, has already imposed similar travel restrictions
  • The Australian Football League suspended its 2020 season, with no fixtures until at least 31 May. The women’s league has also been halted
  • In contrast, the National Rugby League says it will carry on with matches as planned
  • Lockdowns could be imposed
  • The new measures come after large crowds gathered on Sydney’s beaches including Bondi on Saturday, flouting social distancing advice.

Mr Morrison said the situation at Bondi Beach should be a “wake up call to take these policies seriously” and warned lockdowns could be imposed in areas where large outbreaks have occurred.

“You have to keep a healthy distance between each other,” he said.

“If Australians can’t do that on a broad scale, then they are denying the governments and the authorities the most important weapon we have to save lives and to save livelihoods, and states and territories will have to take more severe responses to deal with that.”

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