Australia’s Melbourne braces for closures, losses as it emerges from night-time curfew

FILE PHOTO: Bourke Street mall, a normally busy shopping hub in Melbourne, is seen devoid of people after the city re-entered Stage 3 restrictions as part of efforts to curb a resurgence of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), July 23, 2020. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders/File Photo

(Reuters) – Australia’s second-most populous city Melbourne emerged on Monday from its first night-time curfew to contain the spread of a resurgent coronavirus, as residents braced for further closures and job losses.

The state of Victoria on Sunday imposed the nightly curfew for the capital Melbourne as part of the country’s harshest movement restrictions to date to contain a resurgent COVID-19.

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.

The curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. every day will be in place for six weeks, barring the city’s nearly five million people from leaving their houses except for work or to receive or give care.

The city wore a deserted look on Sunday night, after the government declared a ‘state of disaster’, which gives police additional powers to ensure people are complying with public-health directions.

Supermarkets will remain open, and restaurants, already closed for dining in, will be able to continue with their takeaway and delivery services.

But some businesses that previously had not been forced to close will be asked to shut down. More details are expected to be announced on Monday.

“This is devastating … nobody wanted it to get to this,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told Nine News 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.

He said some businesses will not be able to operate while some will operate in reduced capacity. Victoria makes up about a quarter of the national economy.

The state reported 671 infections on Sunday, one of its highest levels, and seven COVID-19 deaths. While Australia has fared far better than many other countries in keeping the coronavirus from spreading, high numbers of community transmissions and cases of unknown origins have forced the new restrictions.

The restrictions limit outdoor exercise to one hour. All schools will move to remote learning from Wednesday.

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