A recent jump in COVID-19 cases in Australia has prompted a massive nationwide lockdown. Gyms, clubs, pubs and places of worship have been closed down and the government has urged everyone to stay home.
As of 24 March, the World Health Organisation has recorded 1,709 infections, 313 of which were new. Fatalities remain at seven. The south-eastern states of New South Wales and Victoria are the worst-hit.
Amid calls to practise social distancing, many Australians still flocked popular beaches such as Sydney’s Bondi Beach over the weekend. The new measures are putting a stop to such activities. Establishments such as cafes, cinemas and bars have been ordered shut. Only banks, pharmacies, supermarkets and other services deemed essential are allowed to remain open. Funerals have also been limited to only 10 people.
Some Australian states have also closed their borders to slow the spread of the virus. The Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia have all made their respective moves. Western Australia, which covers about a third of the continent, has sealed its borders and anyone who enters the state – barring essential workers –will be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine. South Australia has enacted similar measures while Queensland starts the closure of its borders today.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has acknowledged that this crisis is unprecedented and said that this will mark “the toughest year of our lives.”
He has also warned Australians that the measures in place may last for half a year. “The medical advice is very clear: there is no quick solution. We have to steel ourselves for at least the next six months. The measures that we put in place, we need to prepare to carry on for at least the next six months,” Morrison said at a press conference.