Coronavirus pandemic: Australia

Border curbs to stay even if other restrictions eased

The cruise ship Ruby Princess leaving a port near Sydney yesterday after a few hundred virus-free employees disembarked.
The cruise ship Ruby Princess leaving a port near Sydney yesterday after a few hundred virus-free employees disembarked.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CANBERRA • Australia will keep its international borders closed for at least three to four months to protect itself from the coronavirus pandemic that continues to deepen in other parts of the world.

Border restrictions would likely be the final measure lifted and would stay in place even if other rules were eased, according to chief medical officer Brendan Murphy, the Australian Broadcasting Corp reported yesterday.

Dr Murphy told a government inquiry focusing on the Australian response to the pandemic that the measures still had scope for exceptional circumstances.

"The international situation at the moment is such that any relaxation of border measures would be very risky," he said.

After reporting an infection growth rate of less than 1 per cent for 11 consecutive days, Australia appears to be flattening the curve more successfully than a number of other countries.

Cases of infection are once again on the rise in Italy and France, as well as in Singapore.

Canberra said on Tuesday that lockdown measures have led to a "sustained and consolidated" slowdown in new coronavirus cases, though it cautioned that there will be no easing of restrictions for at least three more weeks.

Under the lockdown, Australians are urged to stay at home except for essential shopping, medical appointments, school, work or exercise. In most states, gatherings are limited to two people, other than household members.

Pubs, restaurants, casinos, gyms and cinemas remain closed, crippling sections of the economy.

Still, in some of the first signs of easing, Bondi Beach will reopen next week for swimming and surfing activities. The famous landmark in Sydney, New South Wales, was shut a month ago amid government frustration that people were ignoring social distancing measures.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2020, with the headline 'Border curbs to stay even if other restrictions eased'. Print Edition | Subscribe