Florida governor to issue stay-at-home order to stem virus spread

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Fort Lauderdale (United States) (AFP)

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Wednesday that he would issue a 30-day stay-at-home order for the 21 million residents of the southern US state to try to stop the spread of coronavirus.

DeSantis said he would issue an executive order later in the day that would take effect at midnight Thursday (0400 GMT Friday).

"I'm going to be doing an executive order today directing all Floridians to limit movements and personal interactions outside the home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities," the governor said at a press conference.

"Even though there's a lot of places in Florida that have very low infection rates, it makes sense to make this move now," he said.

He said workers in essential services would be allowed to leave their homes. "Other than that you need to stay close to home," he said.

Many other heavily-populated US states have already issued such orders, including California and New York, and DeSantis had come in for some criticism for failing to do the same in his state.

DeSantis also continued to express opposition to allowing virus-stricken cruise ships to dock in Florida, but said the decision may not ultimately be up to him.

"I obviously am not in control of the port," he said.

"Clearly we're going to be willing to accept any Floridians," he said, but he expressed concern that allowing other passengers to disembark would tax the state's medical resources.

He said he had discussed the stranded cruise ships with President Donald Trump and "he would like to see a solution."

DeSantis said local authorities and the cruise lines were trying to find a way to resolve the situation and that there would be "more developments on that today."

The operator of two Holland America Line cruise ships appealed to the US authorities on Monday to allow them to dock, saying four passengers had already died and others were at risk.

Florida has reported some 7,000 coronavirus cases and at least 85 deaths.