Canberra, March 19 (IANS) Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday ordered the closure of the nation’s borders for all visitors as a preventive measure against the coronavirus pandemic.
Travellers who are not residents or citizens of Australia will be banned from entering the country from 9 p.m. on Friday, Xinhua news agency quoted Morrison as saying to the media.
Citizens and residents wishing to enter the country will be subjected to a mandatory 14-day quarantine period.
“About 80 per cent of the cases we have in Australia are either the results of someone who has contracted the virus overseas or someone who has had direct contact with someone who has returned from overseas,” Morrison told reporters.
“So, the overwhelming proportion of cases in Australia have been imported. Measures we have put in place have obviously put an impact on that and this is a further measure now that can be further enhanced.”
According to the Department of Health of the Australian government, there have been 565 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday, a 24 per cent increase from the day before.
There were six deaths due to the coronavirus.
Of all the cases, 259, or more than 45 per cent, were considered to be overseas acquired, mostly from the US, Iran, Italy and Britain.
The travel ban followed declaration of an unprecedented human bio-security emergency on Wednesday. Australians were warned to stay at home and not to travel abroad.
Qantas and Virgin Australia, two major airlines, have announced to suspend their international flights.
Hours before the Prime Minister’s press conference, the Reserve Bank of Australia announced an emergency interest rate cut to a record-low 0.25 per cent.