Australians began living under strict new lock rules on Monday as coronavirus cases exceeded 1,600 and authorities denied entry to a cruise ship carrying hundreds of people on board complaining of respiratory illnesses.
As new restrictions on the closure of non-essential services came into effect, there were clear signs of economic and social stress with long queues forming outside the offices of the principal. social protection agency across the country.
After reporting only a gradual spread in January, the number of COVID-19 cases in Australia now appears to follow much larger increases elsewhere, with the most populous states in New South Wales and Victoria recording the largest increases. fast.
Most states have now closed their borders to travelers from other parts of the country and have enforced their own lock laws, in addition to the national restrictions announced on Sunday.
Western Australia on Monday banned passengers on board the Swiss cruise ship MSC Magnifica from disembarking.
Of the 1,700 passengers on board, more than 250 complained of respiratory illnesses. She was to dock at the port of Fremantle on Monday evening.
This decision comes a few days after the landing of 2,700 passengers from the cruise ship Ruby Princess in the port of Sydney, of which 48 on board were subsequently tested positive for the virus.
“I will not allow what happened in Sydney to happen here,” said West Australian Prime Minister Mark McGowan. “We will not allow passengers or crew to walk the streets.”
A spokesperson for MSC Cruises did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“The most difficult year of our lives”
New measures to minimize the spread of the virus mean that many non-essential services, including pubs, clubs, cinemas, gymnasiums and places of worship, were closed on Monday.
“There will be no more going to the pub after work, more going to the gym in the morning and more to sit for brunch in a cafe,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Parliament on Monday.
Morrison said the immense health and economic challenges of the global pandemic would be “the most difficult year of our lives” and warned Australians to prepare for closures that could last six months.
Despite warnings to practice social distancing, thousands of people went to Bondi Beach in Sydney and frequented bars and restaurants over the weekend.
Morrison said that the new measures were necessary to impose social distancing, and that more drastic measures could be adopted in the future.
Supermarkets, pharmacies, freight and retail will continue to trade, while cafes and restaurants will only be able to offer take-out and delivery services.
The economic fallout from the crisis was visible on the streets on Monday, with hundreds of Australians lining up outside government offices in Sydney and Melbourne to sign up for social security payments. Many have tried to practice social distancing as the lines stretched around the block.
The government’s social services website crashed on Monday, overwhelmed by an “unprecedented” number of online queries.
Benchmark index fell more than 4% on Monday, a day after the government pledged an additional $ 66.4 billion ($ 38.06 billion) to fight the impact of the disease .
The economic recovery plan was adopted Monday by the lower house of the Australian Parliament. The approval of the Australian Senate is now enough.
Meanwhile, Rex Patrick, an independent senator, said he had been diagnosed with coronavirus, becoming the fourth federal legislator to be infected.
Several states have implemented strict measures to fight the epidemic, Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia tightening internal border controls, while the school term has been shortened in Victoria .
In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said measures to contain the virus would be stepped up, all schools closed from Tuesday and non-essential services closed within the next 48 hours.
Ardern said the country has a “single window” for “breaking the chain of community transmission”.
In neighboring Pacific islands, where experts fear that underdeveloped health facilities may be easily submerged, a state of emergency was declared in Papua New Guinea after the country registered its first case of the virus.
On Monday, the tiny island of Guam, a US territory in Micronesia, recorded the first death from coronavirus in the region.