Australia Imposes Curfews, Closes Internal Borders To Slow COVID-19 Pandemic.

Will the U.S. be next?


The Australian state of Victoria has imposed draconian new lockdown measures to combat a surge in COVID-19 cases. Some American policymakers are calling for similar actions here.

The new "Stage 4" emergency measures, ordered by Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews, impose an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew on everyone in the Melbourne Metro area, which contains about 75 percent of the state's population.

During curfew hours, only one person per household is allowed to leave the home, and only for grocery shopping, work, health care, or exercise. The rules specify that people cannot travel more than 5 kilometers from their house.

"Where you slept last night is where you'll need to stay for the next six weeks," said Andrews, according to CNN.

Victoria is responsible for more than half of Australia's COVID-19 cases, and the vast majority of new cases, despite being home to only about a quarter of the country's population. The state has recorded 11,937 COVID-19 cases, 426 of which were reported in the last 24 hours. That compares to 18,318 cases across the country, 444 of which were reported in the last 24 hours. Countrywide, 221 people have died of COVID-19 in Australia.

All pubs and clubs in the Melbourne metro area are being forced to close, according to a fact sheet put out by the state government. So are most retail businesses in the Melbourne area, though there are exceptions for grocery stores, liquor stores, pharmacies, post offices, gas stations, and a few other explicitly exempted businesses. Restaurants can remain open for takeout or delivery only. People who can work at home are being ordered to do so.

Funerals of 10 or fewer people are permitted. Weddings are not. All Victorians will have to wear a mask when not at home. Other Australian states have largely banned travelers from Victoria.

Between the virus and the virus-inspired shutdown, economists are warning that Australia's recession will last for at least the rest of the year.

"If we don't do this now, if this doesn't work, then we'll need a much longer list of complete shutdowns," Andrews said. "It's hard to imagine what a Stage 5 might look like. But it would radically change the way people live. Not just rules on when and where you can go shopping—but restrictions on going shopping at all."

Victoria's imposition of new lockdown measures at this stage in the pandemic raises the unsettling possibility that U.S. officials might embrace tighter lockdowns as well.

Early reopening states such as Texas and Florida have already backtracked by closing bars and other businesses at the end of June. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has embraced a "dimmer switch" approach to lockdowns, whereby the state eases or tightens restrictions based on the direction the COVID-19 numbers are going.

Some officials are demanding yet tighter restrictions. Neel Kashkari, president of the Minneapolis Fed, suggested over the weekend that the country impose a "really hard" lockdown for four to six weeks so that testing and contact tracing can be scaled up. Whether American states and cities will go as far as Victoria remains to be seen.