SYDNEY - Australian states are closing their borders Tuesday in a bid to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory will grant quarantine-free entry to only essential workers from other parts of the country. There are more than 2,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Australia. So far, eight people have died.
Western Australia stretches across 2.5 million square kilometers. It covers a third of the vast Australian continent. Beginning Tuesday it will try to seal itself off from the rest of the country in a bid to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The authorities are effectively closing the border. Anyone who crosses into Western Australia will be forced into quarantine. Essential workers are exempt.
The state premier Mark McGowan says the new measures are tough.
“We will be introducing new border controls for Western Australia. These strict new border controls will apply to all access points; roads, rail, air and sea," he said. "Unless exempted, arrivals from inter-state will be ordered to self-isolate for 14 days. Exemptions will apply for essential services and essential workers. We are looking at acquiring very soon some hotels for self-isolation zones so that we can have places to quarantine people who have difficulty self-isolating or who will not self-isolate.”
South Australia is introducing similar regulations. The island of Tasmania has already effectively shut itself off from the Australian mainland. The state of Queensland will shut its borders Wednesday.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his country was facing an unprecedented crisis.
“For many young and old 2020 will be the toughest year of our lives,” he said.
In Australia’s two biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, bars, cafes and cinemas have been ordered to close as the COVID-19 threat intensifies. Banks, supermarkets, pharmacies and other essential services will remain open.
Australia’s domestic football (soccer) competition, the A-League, has become the last major sporting competition to postpone matches because of the coronavirus pandemic.