SYDNEY • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday urged people not to gather in groups of more than 500 from next Monday, as officials warned that millions of residents would contract the coronavirus within months.
Australia has recorded 156 infections and three deaths from the flu-like disease, figures that the authorities expect to increase rapidly in the coming weeks.
Mr Morrison said his government will advise against non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people from next Monday, though these do not include schools, airports or public transport.
“This is an early-stage action that we are undertaking to make sure we get ahead of this,” he said, adding that Australians should also reconsider their need for any overseas travel.
The virus has so far infected more than 135,000 and killed nearly 5,000 worldwide.
Health officials warned that millions of Australians would contract the coronavirus within the next six months.
“We’re anticipating 20 per cent of the population in the first wave to be affected,” Dr Kerry Chant, the chief medical officer for the New South Wales (NSW) state government.
Home to more than seven million people, NSW is Australia’s most populous state, and Dr Chant said models suggest 5 per cent of the state’s population – some 350,000 people – will need hospital treatment as a result of the coronavirus.
Australia’s ban on foreigners arriving from China, Iran and South Korea was extended on Thursday to cover Italy, and has formed a key part of Australia’s move to stop the spread of the virus.
Mr Morrison has spent much of the past week urging locals to remain calm while trying to reassure nervous financial markets.
On Thursday, he said his government would inject A$17.6 billion (S$15.6 billion) to spur an economy hammered by the coronavirus outbreak.
This is an early-stage action that we are undertaking to make sure we get ahead of this.
MR SCOTT MORRISON, Prime Minister of Australia, urging people not to gather in groups of more than 500 from Monday. He said he will no longer attend a rugby match played by his favourite Cronulla Sharks team tonight, after earlier saying he would.
But Mr Morrison’s call for calm has largely fallen on deaf ears.
Hundreds of Australians have begun stockpiling goods, from staples to sanitisers, while the country’s share market has been battered in the past week.
Australia’s updated medical advice was a key catalyst behind the cancellation of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix and an order for a cricket series between Australia and New Zealand to be played behind closed doors.
Mr Morrison said he will no longer attend a rugby match played by his favourite Cronulla Sharks team tonight, after earlier saying he would.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE