Desperate to play through the crisis, the league had until yesterday afternoon said they were determined to see the season through, but their hopes were dealt a severe blow on Monday night when a pandemic expert told them it was no longer possible.
The suspension will come into effect immediately before round three, with the NRL still exploring options on when and how it can resume the competition.
"This decision hasn't been taken lightly but we have a world-renowned pandemic expert and they are very concerned at the rate of this infection," chairman Peter V'landys said.
"We will and always will consider the health of our players before anything else."
The AFL has been suspended while the A-League is expected to be suspended today.
NRL players have been told to remain in self-isolation and no date has been set for a return to play.
"We are going to look at every available option to us in the next week or so as to how we can recommence the season," V'landys said.
"Be it in other areas or northern Queensland. All the options are still on the table.
"We've left (the return date) open and will probably make some announcements in the future."
The decision could have dire financial impacts on the league, with the NRL expected to lose up to $500 million if the season doesn't go ahead.
"It's catastrophic," V'landys said.
"I don't think we have ever come across a financial crisis like this. We are all effected.
"This is a financial crisis. You can't understate it. It's probably the biggest financial challenge the game has faced in its history."
NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said player salary cuts would be likely while V'landys said he was confident they could ensure each of the 16 clubs would remain financially viable.
"We're talking about rugby league but we're talking about a much broader issue in our community," Greenberg said.
"We can still pay the players, but the cost base will need to be reset. From players to clubs, central administration.
"Rugby league has been around in 1908 and we've had struggles and bounced back. It won't be easy but we'll come out the other end."
V'landys reiterated he wanted the NRL to be part of the Federal Government's economic stimulus package.
"We're in the queue with everyone else, we have to be considered with the stimulus," he said.
Relocating all players and games north to Queensland was one option explored by the governing body before deciding against continuing the competition.
The NRL had gone ahead with the first two rounds of the competition, the first weekend with crowds before proceeding last week behind closed doors.
The New Zealand Warriors had remained in Australia after the team's round-one loss to the Knights in Newcastle and played their match last Saturday, originally scheduled for Auckland's Eden Park, at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast.
V'landys said the Warriors could return to Auckland on Tuesday.
"The Warriors can return tomorrow, we had to make a quick decision."