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Australian PM declares biosecurity emergency, urging citizens to stay home

Christian Fernsby |
Australian Prime Minister (PM) Scott Morrison today declared an unprecedented human biosecurity emergency, warning Australians to stay at home and not to travel abroad.

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Topics: AUSTRALIA    EMERGENCY   

The government also banned non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people. "This is a once-in-a-100-year-type event," said Morrison.

The emergency state would give the government extra powers to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We are looking at a situation of at least six months for how we deal with this. It could be much longer than that. It could be shorter. That is unlikely, given the way we are seeing events unfold."

The prime minister said there is no "two-week answer", short-term and quick fix to what the country is facing.

The new measures were agreed during a meeting between Morrison and other state and territory leaders yesterday night.

Indoor gatherings of more than 100 people have been banned effective immediately, while the limit for outdoor events will remain 500.

"We are going to keep Australia running. We are going to keep Australia functioning," Morrison said.

The government has issued a level-four travel ban for the entire world.

It comes after the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) on Tuesday night urged all Australians abroad to return home as soon as possible.

"The travel advice to every Australian is do not travel abroad. Do not go overseas. That is a very clear instruction," Morrison said.

"Don't go overseas. The biggest risk we have had and the biggest incidents of cases we have had has been from Australians returning from overseas."

Despite the ban on mass gatherings, Morrison and Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said schools would remain open on the advice of experts.

"We believe very strongly that it's in the best interest of our children and the nation at this time to keep schools open," Murphy said.

"There may be occasions when there's a big outbreak in a community that some local school closures might be necessary. But at this time, across the community, our view is that schools should stay open."

Morrison also announced limits on visits to aged care facilities where three of the five deaths in Australia from COVID-19 occured.

Anyone who has been overseas or in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 within 14 days will be banned from visiting such facilities and residents will only be allowed to have two visitors at a time.

Australians have also been warned not to visit remote indigenous communities in an attempt to prevent COVID-19 from reaching them.

According to the latest data from the Department of Health of the Australian government, there have been 454 confirmed cases as of today morning. This is an increase of 21 percent compared with 375 as of Tuesday morning.

Health Minister Greg Hunt on Tuesday said the government is expecting 97,000 more testing kits to arrive in Australia within days.

Morrison on Wednesday pled Australians to stop "hoarding" food and medical supplies.

"It's not sensible, it's not helpful and I've got to say it's been one of the most disappointing things I've seen in Australian behavior in response to this crisis."


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