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Australia closes its borders: Scott Morrison announces travel ban for all non-residents.

-With AAP

Non-residents banned from entering Australia.

As of 9pm Friday, March 20, only Australian residents and citizens will be allowed to re-enter the country.

The announcement was made during a press conference on Thursday afternoon by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“We will be resolving to move to a position where a travel ban will be placed on all non-residents, non-Australian citizens coming to Australia, and that will be in place from 9pm tomorrow evening,” he told media.

“The reason for this decision is about 80 per cent of the cases we have in Australia are either the result of someone who has contracted the virus overseas or someone who has had direct contact with someone who has returned from overseas.

“So the overwhelming proportion of cases in Australia have been imported.”

Returning Australians will still need to self-quarantine for 14 days. Those who breach this rule could be subjected to $50,000 fines to six months’ jail time.

Morrison also thanked airline Qantas who have agreed to continue their international flights.

“I want to thank Qantas also, you are offering to work with us to make sure they maintain flights from particular parts of the world that can assist Australians to return to Australia and we will be working closely with them, and those Australians who are overseas, we have been encouraging them to return to Australia,” he continued.

“Those in remote parts of the world, that can prove challenging but for those in other places, it is our intention to ensure we can maintain flights to enable them to come home as soon as possible.”

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On Tuesday evening the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade recommended Australians currently travelling overseas to return home as soon as possible via commercial flights.

The federal body stated difficulties could arise as countries close their borders in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They also warn consular assistance may be difficult to access due to increased movement restrictions.

Virus infections hit 200,000 worldwide.

COVID-19 has now infected over 214,000 people, with 82,032 people listed as recovered on the Johns Hopkins Centre for Systems Science and Engineering’s online tally.

It has also recorded 8000 deaths.

The countries most affected include China, Italy, Spain, Iran and Germany.

Italy, which as a country is entirely in lockdown, will surpass China’s death toll with just one more day, with infections up over 35,000.

Italy’s death toll at the time of writing is 2,978, while in China there have been 3,241 deaths.

In Australia we’ve got 568 cases, and confirmed our sixth death yesterday.

The 86-year-old man was being treated in a Sydney hospital before he succumbed to the disease on Tuesday night.

The other deaths are two women, aged 90 and 95, and an 82-year-old man, all from the Dorothy Henderson Lodge aged care facility in Macquarie Park, Sydney, a 77-year-old woman from NSW and a 78-year-old man from Perth.

Australian shoppers’ aggression not subsiding.

A 63-year-old man was arrested in a NSW supermarket last night after ramming two elderly women and punching a female store attendant in the face.

The man allegedly rammed his trolley into the women in their 70s after realising the Coles supermarket in Lismore had sold out of the flour he was looking for.

He then allegedly pinned the 45-year-old female store attendant against a shelf before punching her when she came to the women’s rescue.

There have also been brawls over groceries in Perth and Sydney as panic buying continues.

City of Sydney closes gyms and pools. 

The City of Sydney has closed down its gyms and aquatic centres and postponed or cancelled all non-essential events that breach the Prime Minister’s new gathering rules – brought into force yesterday.

Restricted hours at libraries and community centres have also been brought in.

NSW recorded 57 new cases since Tuesday which was the biggest spike in a 24-hour period.

The UK closes schools. 

Britain has ordered schools, nurseries and colleges to close for millions of children until further notice, after criticism that the government was being too slow to react to the spread of coronavirus.

Most schools will close from Friday, although some will be asked to stay open to support the children of essential workers like health care employees, education minister Gavin Williamson told parliament.

“I know the situation has become increasingly challenging. I said before that if the science and the advice changed such that keeping schools open would no longer be in the best interests of children and teachers that we would act,” he said.

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“We are now at that stage. The spike of the virus is increasing at a faster pace than anticipated.”

The shutting of so many schools will have huge economic and social repercussions for the world’s fifth-biggest economy.

It will alter the lives of almost 9 million British children and force parents to stay home from work to look after them.

The decision came after head-teachers were increasingly having to turn away pupils anyway because of staff shortages.

The move to shut schools is a reversal of the government’s recent cautious stance towards tackling the virus.

Britain had previously resisted pressure to follow the lead of Italy, France, and Spain, saying that school closures would not halt the outbreak and would deprive the country of key public sector workers.

It’s the same approach Australia has been taking, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirming yesterday that schools here would also remain open.

Trump is calling himself a “wartime president” as he invokes emergency law.

US President Donald Trump has moved to invoke a federal law that allows the government to marshal the private sector to deal with the coronavirus epidemic as more borders slammed shut across Europe and North America.

On a day of head-spinning developments, stocks tumbled again on Wall Street.

Calling himself a “wartime president,” Trump said he would sign the Defense Production Act “in case we need it” as the government bolsters resources for an expected surge in cases of the virus.

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With a growing number of people in the US thrown out of work by the near-shutdown of much of the country’s economy, he also said the Housing and Urban Development Department will suspend foreclosures and evictions from public housing through April.

Two people briefed on the matter said on Wednesday that Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler agreed to close all their factories.

The move would idle about 150,000 workers, who are likely to receive supplemental pay in addition to unemployment benefits.

Dutch minister collapses in virus debate.

The Dutch minister for medical care has collapsed briefly during a debate in parliament over the coronavirus.

Bruno Bruins fell behind the speakers’ lectern while taking questions and was then helped up by fellow ministers.

He took a sip of water and was seen leaving the room unassisted.

His office said it would issue a statement and had no immediate comment.

Eurovision the latest cancellation. 

The 2020 Eurovision song contest in the Netherlands has been cancelled.

The event, which Australia participates in, was scheduled to take place in Rotterdam on May 12-16.

The decision to cancel was made in light of the restrictions put in place by participating broadcasters and Dutch authorities as well as health considerations.

Montaigne was due to represent Australia with her song Don’t Break Me. 

 

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Tokyo Olympics still pushing ahead. 

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach has moved to ease fears after complaints by athletes as Japan insisted it was not preparing for a postponement of the Tokyo Olympics.

With the Olympic flame about to be handed by Greece to Japan, Bach insisted on Wednesday that the IOC heard the athletes’ concerns on health and preparations as the virus continues to spread.

“Everybody realised that we have still more than four months to go and we will address this action, and we will keep acting in a responsible way in the interest of the athletes,” Bach said after a conference call with 220 athletes representatives.

Meanwhile, Japan is still planning to host the Olympics as scheduled from July 24-August. 9.

“We’re not making any adjustments to postpone the Games,” the government’s top spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, told parliament when asked by a lawmaker whether the government was making plans to cancel or postpone the event.

His comments came amid growing concerns about whether the Games can proceed as planned, with the virus panicking financial markets and bringing business and social activity around the world to a standstill.

Feature image: Getty. 

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