A tourist wearing a face mask walks with others as she enters the foyer of Parliament House in Canberra. Elsewhere people still disregard social distancing advice. Photo: AFP

SYDNEY: Australia started shutting down pubs, clubs, gyms and houses of worship on Monday after a jump in Covid-19 coronavirus cases and after thousands disregarded social distancing advice and crowded beaches, bars and restaurants.

After an initial slow rate of infection, the number of Covid-19 cases in Australia has now surpassed 1,100 with the south-eastern states of Victoria and New South Wales recording the highest number of cases.

“There will be no more going to the pub after work, no more going to the gym in the morning, and no more sitting down for brunch at a cafe,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told parliament on Monday morning.

The leader described the immense health and economic challenges as the “toughest year of our lives” and warned Australians to prepare for a shutdown that could last six months.

Despite calls to practice social distancing, some Australians ignored the warnings with thousands flocking to Bondi Beach and frequenting restaurants and bars in recent days.

Morrison said on Sunday that sweeping new measures were needed to enforce social distancing, ordering non-essential services, including indoor sporting venues, pubs, cinemas, bars and places of worship be closed from midday Monday.

Local authorities have also been closing beaches to disperse crowds amid a warm autumn spell, while cafes and restaurants will be able to only offer takeaway and delivery services.

Supermarkets, pharmacies, freight and retail will continue to trade. – Reuters