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City of Melbourne closes non-essential businesses, installs curfew to stem rise in coronavirus cases

Issued on: 03/08/2020 – 07:36Modified: 03/08/2020 – 07:41

Australia’s second-largest city Melbourne entered its first full day of tougher restrictions to contain the spread of a resurgent coronavirus on Monday, as residents braced for further announcements on business closures.

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With the state of Victoria already under a state of emergency, Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday declared a “state of disaster”, saying that measures were working but too slowly. “We must go harder. It’s the only way we”ll get to the other side of this,” he told reporters.

On Sunday night, he imposed a nightly curfew for the state capital Melbourne as part of the country’s harshest virus restrictions to date.

The move was backed by the federal government, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying it was “regrettably necessary” to stop the spread of the pandemic.

All non-essential businesses in Melbourne were also ordered to close. Retail shops, construction projects and manufacturing around the city would be curtailed, the state premier said on Monday.

Under the new restrictions, a curfew from 8pm to 5am will be in place for six weeks, barring the city’s nearly 5 million people from leaving their houses except for work or to receive or give care.

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Few people were out and about in the city centre on Monday morning, and traffic volumes thinned to half of what were already light flows, with police being given powers to ensure people are complying with public-health directions.

Supermarkets will remain open along with restaurant takeaway and delivery services, but some businesses that previously had not been forced to close will be asked to shut down. Schools will move to remote learning from Wednesday.

“This is devastating … nobody wanted it to get to this,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told 9News television.

“There is only one way out and that is to stem the tide of new cases. This is a big kick in the guts to thousands of small businesses right across the state,” he added.

New Zealand travel corridor delayed

The state of Victoria makes up about a quarter of the national economy. It was due to report another 429 cases on Monday, down from 671 infections on Sunday, local media said ahead of the release of official figures.

While Australia has fared far better than many other countries in keeping the coronavirus from spreading, high numbers of community transmissions and cases of unknown origin have forced the new restrictions.

In all, Australia has recorded more than 17,923 cases and 208 deaths.

The Victoria outbreak has scuppered Australia’s hopes for a quick economic rebound from the country’s first recession in nearly three decades.

The surge in new cases will also see an Australia-New Zealand travel bubble delayed indefinitely, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.

“Part of our criteria is anywhere we have quarantine-free travel, they have to be free of community transmission for a period of time – 28 days,” Ardern told New Zealand TV network Three.

“That is going to take a long time for Australia … so that will be on the back burner for some time,” she added.

Both countries had previously said international travel between the two could restart as soon as September.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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