Australia Imposes Curfews, Closes Internal Borders To Slow COVID-19
Will the U.S. be next?
CHRISTIAN BRITSCHGI | 8.3.2020 4:20 PM
(Gui Qing Xinhua News Agency/Newscom)
The Australian state of Victoria has imposed draconian new lockdown measures
to combat a surge in COVID-19 cases. Some American policymakers are calling
for similar actions here.
The new "Stage 4" emergency measures, ordered by Victoria Premier Daniel
Andrews, impose an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew on everyone in the Melbourne
Metro area, which contains about 75 percent of the state's population.
During curfew hours, only one person per household is allowed to leave the
home, and only for grocery shopping, work, health care, or exercise. The
rules specify that people cannot travel more than 5 kilometers from their
"Where you slept last night is where you'll need to stay for the next six
weeks," said Andrews, according to CNN.
Victoria is responsible for more than half of Australia's COVID-19 cases,
and the vast majority of new cases, despite being home to only about a
quarter of the country's population. The state has recorded 11,937 COVID-19
cases, 426 of which were reported in the last 24 hours. That compares to
18,318 cases across the country, 444 of which were reported in the last 24
hours. Countrywide, 221 people have died of COVID-19 in Australia.
All pubs and clubs in the Melbourne metro area are being forced to close,
according to a fact sheet put out by the state government. So are most
retail businesses in the Melbourne area, though there are exceptions for
grocery stores, liquor stores, pharmacies, post offices, gas stations, and a
few other explicitly exempted businesses. Restaurants can remain open for
takeout or delivery only. People who can work at home are being ordered to
Funerals of 10 or fewer people are permitted. Weddings are not. All
Victorians will have to wear a mask when not at home. Other Australian
states have largely banned travelers from Victoria.
Between the virus and the virus-inspired shutdown, economists are warning
that Australia's recession will last for at least the rest of the year.
"If we don't do this now, if this doesn't work, then we'll need a much
longer list of complete shutdowns," Andrews said. "It's hard to imagine what
a Stage 5 might look like. But it would radically change the way people
live. Not just rules on when and where you can go shopping—but restrictions
on going shopping at all."
Victoria's imposition of new lockdown measures at this stage in the pandemic
raises the unsettling possibility that U.S. officials might embrace tighter
lockdowns as well.
Early reopening states such as Texas and Florida have already backtracked by
closing bars and other businesses at the end of June. California Gov. Gavin
Newsom has embraced a "dimmer switch" approach to lockdowns, whereby the
state eases or tightens restrictions based on the direction the COVID-19
numbers are going.
Some officials are demanding yet tighter restrictions. Neel Kashkari,
president of the Minneapolis Fed, suggested over the weekend that the
country impose a "really hard" lockdown for four to six weeks so that
testing and contact tracing can be scaled up. Whether American states and
cities will go as far as Victoria remains to be seen.
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