Disaster declared in Australian state to fight coronavirus spread

Disaster declared in Australian state to fight coronavirus spread
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Officials have declared a state of disaster in Victoria, Australia, amid surging COVID-19 cases and deaths in the region.

The Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) reported that the declaration, which went into effect at 6:00 p.m., local time, on Sunday, can remain into effect for up to six months. It gives local police and officials a wide range of powers to implement restrictions on daily life.

A higher level of restrictions has been placed on residents of Melbourne, a city in the region that has reported more than 11,000 confirmed cases of the virus. More than 1,000 cases are actively being treated, according to health officials.

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Under the new restrictions, Melbourne residents will only be able to shop for essential items within approximately 3 miles of their homes during daytime hours before a curfew begins at 8:00 p.m. lasting until 5:00 a.m. Only one member of a family may shop at one time, according to ABC, and only once per day.

"I want to assure all Victorians - supermarkets, the butcher, the baker, food, beverage, groceries, those types of settings, there will be no impact there," said Daniel Andrews, Victoria's premier.

Andrews added that the decision was made after state health experts told him that the rate of COVID-19 cases in the region indicated that the state would not be able to reopen nonessential businesses before the end of 2019 unless more drastic action was taken.

"Therefore we have to do more and we have to do more right now," he said, according to ABC.

Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville told ABC that the decision was "not something we take lightly."

"For all those who want to test the police powers, this now puts out of doubt any of those police powers," she told the network.

Australia has reported just under 18,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus nationwide, and 208 deaths since the pandemic began.