Roundup: Australian gov't orders mass closures of non-essential venues

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, March 23, 2020
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CANBERRA, March 23 (Xinhua) -- Non-essential venues across Australia have been ordered to close from midday on Monday in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday night announced an escalation of social distancing measures, including the mandatory closure of cinemas, pubs, entertainment venues, indoor sporting venues and so on.

Restaurants and cafes will remain open but will only be allowed to offer takeaway and/or home delivery services.

The announcement came after a late-night meeting of the National Cabinet comprising of Morrison and state and territory leaders.

Morrison warned that even stricter measures could be introduced if Australians continue to ignore social distancing requirements, which include a ban on non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people outdoors and 100 indoors.

"We now need to take action because we can't have the confidence as a group of leaders that the social distancing guidelines and rules that we've put in place won't be followed to the level of compliance that we require to flatten the curve and to slow the spread and to save lives," Morrison said.

"When we all don't do the right thing, then it has real implications for others.

I am deeply regretful that those workers and those business owners who will be impacted by this decision will suffer the economic hardship that undoubtedly they will now have to face.

"That is a very, very regretful decision."

The crackdown comes as state governments take even more extreme measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory on Sunday have announced a complete shutdown of non-essential services over the next 48 hours.

South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory have announced the effective closure of their borders from Tuesday.

Anyone arriving in those states or territories after the designated time on Tuesday will be subjected to a mandatory 14 day quarantine, although exemptions will apply for essential services and workers.

Across the country governments are under pressure to suspend rent for small businesses and tenants to provide economic relief.

Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Sunday announced a 66 billion Australian dollar (37.9 billion U.S. dollar) economic stimulus package, building on a 17.6 billion Australian dollar (10.1 billion U.S. dollar) package announced earlier in March.

Frydenberg said on Sunday that the government expects the economic impact of coronavirus "to be deeper, wider, and longer" than previously thought.

Australia's jobless rate would jump to 13.8 percent, the highest the country has seen in generations, if employers in the retail, construction, hospitality, recreation and education sectors cut their workforce by a quarter, according to The Australian Financial Review on Monday.

Frydenberg and Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe have warned of steep job losses but are trying to cushion the blow through the economic support package.

"This is deadly serious," Frydenberg told Nine Entertainment radio on Monday.

"These health restrictions have a very severe impact on the economy.

"You cannot have a strong economy without a healthy nation." Enditem

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