Sept. 3 (UPI) — Australia’s Ministry of Health announced Thursday it was extending a ban on residents leaving the country through Dec. 17 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The country’s so-called Human Biosecurity Emergency Period has been in effect since March in the hopes of controlling the transmission of the virus. Residents must get government approval to get around the ban.

“The extension of the emergency period was informed by specialist medical and epidemiological advice provided by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee,” a statement from Health Ministry said. “AHPPC has advised that the international and domestic COVID-19 situation continues to pose an unacceptable public health risk. The extension of the emergency period is an appropriate response to that risk.”

Exempt from the period are residents of other countries, offshore freights and boats, essential workers and government officials.

The period also places restrictions on the entry of cruise ships into Australia, offer protections for the supply and sale of certain essential goods, limits overseas travel as well as retail stores at international airports.

Australia has fought a new wave of the coronavirus cases, with 127 new COVID-19 cases being confirmed Thursday, pushing the national total to more than 26,000, with 678 deaths.

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