SYDNEY: Australia on Thursday (Mar 19) unveiled an unprecedented ban on any non-residents arriving into the country, ratcheting up efforts to seal the country off from transborder COVID-19 infections.
"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," Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced.
Neighbouring New Zealand will also close its borders to all foreigners from midnight on Thursday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a press conference that citizens and permanent residents can still return, but their options are running out as many commercial airlines are cancelling flights.
People who have already boarded and on their way will still be able to land, said Ardern.
The widening restrictions on travel and domestic movement are expected to help push Australia's economy into its first recession in nearly three decades in the first half of 2020.
Australia's central bank pumped liquidity into the banking system on Thursday ahead of the expected further intervention to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
It made a historic foray into quantitative easing on Thursday and cut interest rates for the second time in a month, joining a rush by global central banks to pump cash into the economy as the coronavirus pandemic crushed businesses.
Following an out-of-schedule meeting, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) reduced its cash rate to an all-time low of 0.25 per cent and said the board would not tighten policy until it achieves its employment and inflation goals.
The country's biggest airline Qantas said on Thursday it will halt all international flights later this month, after the island nation's other main carrier Virgin shut its overseas services.
Qantas said all of its international flights would be suspended by late March for at least two months after the government told citizens Wednesday to forego all overseas travel in a bid to halt the spread of novel coronavirus.
Two-thirds of its workforce will be put on leave and Qantas will delay the payment of its dividend, worth A$201 million (US$116.24 million), from Apr 9 until Sep 1.
Senior executives and the board will take a 100 per cent pay cut until at least the end of the financial year, up from 30 per cent earlier, joining the chairman and CEO in taking no pay.