Australia started shutting down pubs, clubs, gyms and houses of worship on Monday after a jump in Covid-19 coronavirus cases and after thousands disregarded social distancing advice and crowded beaches, bars and restaurants.
After reporting only a gradual spread in January, the number of COVID-19 cases in Australia now appears to be tracking much sharper increases with 1682 patients tested positive and 6 died. New South Wales and Victoria recording the fastest rises.
“There will be no more going to the pub after work, no more going to the gym in the morning, and no more sitting down for brunch at a cafe,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told parliament on Monday morning.
The leader described the immense health and economic challenges as the “toughest year of our lives” and warned Australians to prepare for a shutdown that could last six months.
Despite calls to practice social distancing, some Australians ignored the warnings with thousands flocking to Bondi Beach and frequenting restaurants and bars in recent days.
Morrison said on Sunday that sweeping new measures were needed to enforce social distancing, ordering non-essential services, including indoor sporting venues, pubs, cinemas, bars and places of worship be closed from midday Monday.
Local authorities have also been closing beaches to disperse crowds amid a warm autumn spell, while cafes and restaurants will be able to only offer takeaway and delivery services. However, only supermarkets, pharmacies, freight and retail will continue to trade.
Listed Australian companies severely exposed to the curbs on public life, including casinos and retailers, started requesting share trading halts early on Monday.
With scores of people already unemployed, hundreds of Australians lined up outside government offices in Sydney and Melbourne on Monday to register for social security payments, according to two Reuters’ witnesses.
Several Australian states have taken further precautionary measures, with Western Australia and South Australia announcing tighter border restrictions at the weekend.
On Monday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said that schools will be closed from Tuesday, and plans are in place for remote learning.
“If people simply behave as normal, if they don’t take this seriously, if they act selfishly, then people will die,” Andrews said on Monday.
Let’s battle the virus, just #StayAtHome people ! That’s the most effective way to curb the spread of Covid-19 .. I know we can do it!