Roundup: Non-urgent surgery suspended in Australia to facilitate COVID-19 fight

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CANBERRA, March 25 (Xinhua) -- The Australian government announced Wednesday that non-urgent elective surgery will be suspended to allow more capacity in hospitals while the country is combating COVID-19.

According to the Australian government, from 11:59 p.m. local time Wednesday, only category one and some exceptional category two surgery will continue in public and private hospitals until further notice.

Category one is described as needing treatment within 30 days, with the potential to deteriorate quickly to the point where the patient's situation may become an emergency, whereas category two is believed to be needing treatment within 90 days.

As of 3:00 p.m. local time Wednesday, there are 2,423 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia, according to the country's Health Department.

The Australian government has expanded its crackdown on social gatherings to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the new restrictions on "major transmitting events" on Tuesday night following a conference call with state and territory leaders.

Amusement parks, public swimming pools, recreation centers, galleries, museums and libraries are among the businesses that will be ordered to close.

Funerals will be limited to a maximum of 10 people and weddings to five including the couple and celebrant.

Citizens will be banned from travelling overseas from midday on Wednesday.

"No-one should be getting on a plane and going overseas," Morrison said.

Australians have been warned against attending outdoor events in groups of more than 10 people.

"So that means barbecues of lots of friends or even family, extended family coming together to celebrate one year old birthday parties and all these sorts of things, we can't do those things now," Morrison said.

"Stay at home unless it is absolutely necessary you go out."

"If we do all these things then we are going to be able to put greater pressure on slowing the rate of the spread of this virus."

Brendan Murphy, the chief medical officer, said the new measures announced on Tuesday night were draconian but necessary.

"We are very worried about the rate of rise in the number of cases of coronavirus in Australia, particularly over the last few days," he said.

"It is a very, very steep growth and it's very concerning."

"Still, a significant proportion of those new cases are returned travelers or contacts of returned travelers... We will not tolerate anybody putting the community at risk as a return traveller."

South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory effectively closed their borders indefinitely on Tuesday, with anyone arriving now subject to a mandatory 14-day self-isolation period.

Steven Marshall, premier of South Australia, said on Wednesday that closing the borders and the nationwide shutdowns would save lives.

"The clear message to everybody is if we take this seriously and everybody does their part we will really flatten that curve and save lives, it's a simple fact," he told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio. Enditem

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