NEW YORK: New York State will ban gatherings of more than 500 people beginning on Friday at 5.00pm (2100 GMT) in order to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday (Mar 12).

Establishments that can fit 500 people or fewer must halve their capacity beginning on Friday, Cuomo said.

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Broadway theatres in Manhattan will have to start observing the new rules on Thursday night, Cuomo told reporters at a news conference in Albany.

“This is about science, this is about data,” Cuomo said in announcing what he described as extraordinary measures for a state that includes the nation’s most populous city. “Let the science, let the data make the decisions.”

As of Thursday afternoon, there were 328 people in the state confirmed to have contracted the new coronavirus, which causes a sometimes deadly respiratory disease called COVID-19. A minority of those people have been hospitalised, but so far no deaths have been reported in New York.

READ: After testing delays, US coronavirus cases surge past 1,000

Hospitals, nursing homes, mass transit and certain other facilities will be exempt from the new rule, Cuomo said.

In the neighbouring state of New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy recommended the cancellation of all gatherings of more than 250 people.

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