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On Friday, Illinois and New York followed California in putting restrictions on the movement of residents, ordering all residents to stay in their homes unless they have vital reasons to go out.
In practice, what this means is that all “nonessential” workers must stay at home. Most bars and restaurants will be closed. Large gatherings will be cancelled. In California, leaving the state or going abroad will be restricted.
Most essential businesses and services, such as pharmacies, gas stations and grocery stores, will remain open.The moves are the most serious restrictions yet in the attempt to mitigate the health threat posed by the virus in the US, where the number of confirmed cases has approached 20,000.
In a press conference, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made it clear that the state would take the restrictions seriously.
“These provisions will be enforced," he said. “These are not helpful hints. This is not if you really want to be a great citizen. These are legal provisions. They will be enforced. There will be a civil fine and mandatory closure for any business that is not in compliance. Again, your actions can affect my health. That’s where we are.”
With that said, for now there are no civil fines for people who break this policy, adding to uncertainty over the state’s ability to maintain strict enforcement of the rules.
Illinois’ policy, meanwhile, will go into effect at 5 p.m. local time on Saturday. When announcing the decision, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said that the decision, while difficult, was ultimately a choice over “choosing between people’s lives and saving people’s livelihood,” adding that “Ultimately, you can’t have a livelihood if you don’t have your life.”
More US states could follow in their footsteps. Connecticut announced it would enact similar policies and New Jersey is expected to closely follow suit.
Meanwhile, the US federal government is debating the specifics of an economic relief package. On Friday, the US Senate was working towards finalizing a plan, reportedly worth around US$1 trillion, to help Americans weather the economic impacts of the virus.
Details include policies on unemployment benefits, help with lost wages, tax cuts, and direct payments to US citizens.
As the final bill is still under negotiation specific numbers on these plans have not yet been finalized.
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