New Zealand announces coronavirus lockdown

Sydney, Australia, Mar 23 (efe-epa).- New Zealand’s prime minister on Monday announced the country will go into lockdown on Wednesday after the first cases of community transmission of COVID-19 were suspected.

The country had 36 new cases Monday, bringing the total to 102. The majority were linked to overseas travel, but two cases are thought to be local transmission.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference said the country had moved into Level 3 on Monday, shifting the population into self-isolation in preparation for the highest Level 4 lockdown Wednesday, which is expected to last for four weeks.

“These decisions will place the most significant restriction on New Zealanders’ movements in modern history,” Ardern said.

All non-essential businesses are ordered closed within 48 hours, all indoor and outdoor events banned, and schools to be closed from Tuesday. Essential services such as supermarkets and healthcare centers are to remain open, while people are allowed outside in unpopulated open spaces on their own or with people they are in isolation with.

“If community transmission takes off in New Zealand, the number of cases will double every five days. If that happens, unchecked, our health system will be inundated, and tens of thousands of New Zealanders will die,” she said.

“It is the reality we have seen overseas – and the possibility we must now face here. Together we must stop that happening and we can,” she said.

Meanwhile, Australia on Monday also closed indefinitely places of meeting, entertainment, sports and worship as part of the efforts to flatten the propagation curve of COVID-19.

Businesses affected by the closure order are pubs, clubs, gyms, cinemas, casinos, nightclubs, places of worship or religious gatherings, among others, according to the announcement made Sunday night by Morrison after meeting with heads of state and territorial governments.

The government indicated that essential services such as supermarkets or kindergartens, as well as schools will continue with their regular work, although it left open the possibility of closing them if the crisis worsens. The disease has already claimed seven lives and infected more than 1,600 people in the country.

“Australians will be living with this virus, is our advice, for at least the next six months. It could be longer. There is no three- or four-week shutdown that makes it all go away. There is no short-term solution to this,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday in Canberra.

The measure of the closure of non-essential businesses came after the outrage on social networks caused by the gathering last Friday of thousands of bathers at the famous Bondi beach in Sydney, which does not respect the ban on outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Australia and New Zealand have have both implemented in recent weeks various measures such as the closure of borders to non-residents, as well as ordered the mandatory quarantine for 14 days of those who enter the country.

They have also announced huge economic stimulus packages to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the economy. EFE-EPA


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