More than 250,000 Australians are now being told to stay home from their workplaces Thursday as the city of Melbourne has entered a 6-week lockdown to contain a growing coronavirus outbreak.
The tough, wide-ranging measures – which regulate daily living ranging from who can shop at stores to exercise time – are expected to cost Australia's economy up to $6.5 billion in the September quarter, according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
“This is a heavy blow,” Morrison said Thursday as the government forecast the lockdown will push up the unemployment rate from just over 11% to almost 14%. “A heavy blow.”
Victoria state, where Melbourne is located, set a daily record of 725 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday. Elsewhere in Australia, only 14 new infections were found.
As of Thursday, the continent has recorded 19,863 overall coronavirus cases and 255 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The restrictions being imposed in Melbourne – Australia’s second-largest city with a population of nearly 5 million – coincide with a nightly 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew.
Like other lockdowns around the world, residents are being told they can only leave their homes for things such as essential items and medical care.
But these restrictions go further by permitting only one shopper per day for each household and limiting exercise time outside to just an hour a day, within three miles of homes, The Guardian reports.
Melbourne residents are also being told they can’t go to another person’s home unless they are giving or receiving care, or are involved in an “intimate personal relationship” with those individuals, the website adds.
It’s not clear how these rules will be enforced, but those found in violation will be subjected to $200 fines, The Guardian also says.
And those whose work is deemed essential need government-issued permits to travel near-empty streets to get to their jobs. Melbourne usually accounts for a quarter of Australia’s economic activity.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews also urged against panic-buying as he announced reductions in meat production across Victoria from late Friday.
Beef, lamb and pork production will be reduced by a third because of the virus transmission risks in slaughterhouses and meat processing plants. Poultry production will be reduced by 20%.
“You may not necessarily be able to get exactly the cut of meat that you want, but you will get what you need,” Andrews said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.