March 22, 2020 / 11:13 AM / 12 days ago

Australia orders widespread business closures to combat coronavirus

People wearing protective face masks walk through the international terminal of Kingsford Smith International Airport the morning after Australia implemented an entry ban on non-citizens and non-residents intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Sydney, Australia, March 21, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday ordered many venues, including pubs, casinos, gyms and cinemas, to close from midday Monday to combat coronavirus after many people appeared to disregard health warnings and congregated in large numbers in recent days.

After an initial relatively slow spread, the number of infections in Australia has risen quickly, climbing to 1,098 confirmed cases as of Sunday with seven deaths linked to the illness.

“I am deeply regretful that those workers and those business owners who will be impacted by this decision will suffer the economic hardship that undoubtedly they will now have to face,” Morrison said in a national address on Sunday evening.

Restaurants, cafes and catering businesses will be restricted to delivery and take-away services, Morrison said.

Reporting by Jonathan Barrett; Editing by Frances Kerry

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