Issued on: 03/08/2020 – 07:36Modified: 03/08/2020 – 07:41
Australia's second-biggest city Melbourne entered its first day of tougher restrictions to contain the spread of a resurgent coronavirus on Monday as residents braced for further announcements on business closures.
The state of Victoria declared a "state of emergency" on Sunday and imposed a nightly curfew for the state capital Melbourne as part of the country's harshest virus restrictions to date.
The move was backed by the federal government with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying it was "regrettably necessary" to stop the spread of the pandemic.
All non-essential businesses in Melbourne were also ordered to close. Retail shops, construction projects and manufacturing around the city would be curtailed, the state premier said on Monday.
Under the new restrictions, a curfew from 8pm to 5am will be in place for six weeks, barring the city's nearly 5 million people from leaving their houses except for work or to receive or give care.
Few people were out and about in the city centre on Monday morning, and traffic volumes thinned to half of what were already light flows, with police being given powers to ensure people are complying with public-health directions.
Supermarkets will remain open along with restaurant takeaway and delivery services, but some businesses that previously had not been forced to close will be asked to shut down. Schools will move to remote learning from Wednesday.
"This is devastating … nobody wanted it to get to this," Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told 9News television.
"There is only one way out and that is to stem the tide of new cases. This is a big kick in the guts to thousands of small businesses right across the state," he added.
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The state of Victoria makes up about a quarter of the national economy. It was due to report another 429 cases on Monday, down from 671 infections on Sunday, local media said ahead of the release of official figures.