Sydney, Melbourne to shut down

Sydney: Sydney and Melbourne, Australia’s two biggest cities, will shut down non-essential services in the next 48 hours as coronavirus cases have increased rapidly in the country, it was announced on Sunday.

New South Wales (NSW), home to Sydney, is the worst-affected state with 533 confirmed cases. Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, has 296 cases, while Queensland has 259, reports the BBC.

Seven people have died across Australia so far, while the overall number of confirmed cases was 1,315.

The new restrictions will force many businesses to close but supermarkets, petrol stations, pharmacies and home delivery services will continue running.

Schools in NSW remain open for now but Victorian schools will close from Tuesday.

If the shutdown of non-essential services was not implemented, “our hospitals will be overwhelmed and more Victorians will die”, Victoria’s state premier Daniel Andrews was quoted as saying the the Australia Broadcasting Corporation.

The new measures come after large crowds gathered on Sydney’s beaches including Bondi on Saturday, flouting social distancing advice.