Australian states close borders due to pandemic


Canberra, April 3 (IANS) Australian states have closed their borders in an effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

For the first time in history, Western Australia (WA), the country’s largest state, closed its borders, reports Xinhua news agency.

“These new harder border closures essentially mean we will be turning Western Australia into its own island, within an island,” WA Premier Mark McGowan said on Friday.

“Western Australia is in a unique position. Our isolation is now our best defence. We need to use it to the best of our advantage.”

Meanwhile, the northeastern state of Queensland also tightened border restrictions with its neighbour New South Wales (NSW), denying entry to anyone without a valid reason.

NSW has been the hardest-hit in the country, accounting for close to half of the 5,000 confirmed cases as well as deaths.

On Friday, a 75-year-old man died in a hospital in Sydney, taking the total number of fatalities in Australia to 27, 12 of which were in NSW.

The state recorded its lowest daily increase of infections in nearly two weeks, with just 91 new cases, taking its total to 2,389.

With 336 cases of unknown origin, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said laws restricting public gatherings and limiting people leaving their homes could be in place for as long as six months, and did not rule out extending that period if health experts recommended to do so.

“I echo the Prime Minister (Scott Morrison) – we’re in it for at least six months. Until there is a cure, a vaccine, this crisis is something we need to deal with,” Berejiklian said.

Morrison told the media on Friday a plan was being worked out to support those who are unable to pay rent due to the COVID-19 crisis, explaining that the priority would be given to commercial lease holders given a high number of business closures.

He also said that seeing case rates drop was promising and that the country could move to a “new phase” of virus suppression but added that Australians needed to continue to do the right thing.

“Early modelling shows if we keep doing the work and upgrade our (intensive care) capacity then right now that trajectory is promising,” he said. “But there are no guarantees, this virus writes its own rules.”

Morrison took the opportunity to advise Australians to stay at home during the upcoming Easter holidays, a time when traditionally many families would have been planning to get away for the long-weekend.