Australia declared a “human biosecurity emergency” on Wednesday as Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned the country’s citizens should cease all overseas travel because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The formal declaration – the first in the nation’s history – gives the government powers to close off cities or regions, impose curfews and order people to quarantine, if deemed necessary to contain the spread of the virus.
The upgrade in official advice to an unprecedented “Level 4: Do not travel” to any country in the world, was accompanied by a ban on any non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people.
The conservative coalition leader cautioned the government was preparing for the impact of the pandemic to last six months or more.
“We are going to keep Australia running. We are going to keep Australia functioning. It won’t look like it normally does but it is very important that we continue to put in place measures that are scalable and sustainable,” Morrison said in a nationally televised address from the national capital, Canberra.
“There is no two-week answer to what we’re confronting. There is no short-term, quick fix to how this is dealt with in Australia. The idea that you can just turn everything off for two weeks and then turn it all back on again and it all goes away, that is not the evidence, that is not the facts, that is not the information and it is not our way through this.”
The hospitality, tourism and event sectors are predicted to be those worst hit as social distancing measures are intensified to curb the virus’s spread.
But Morrison downplayed the possibility of any immediate mass lockouts.
“There is no way that we can lock down society and make everyone stay home and then in a month’s time, undo that, because the virus will just flare up again.”