Of all of 2020, it’s possible March was the month with the most chaos and uncertainty (January’s fire and hailstorm runs a close second). From 11 March, the day World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, a sense of uncertainty, dread and fear filtered into communities across the world as freedom of movement was restricted to stop the spread of the virus.
CW’s March 2020 in review follows the ACT and Australia’s response to COVID-19 being declared a pandemic, and reactions from various sectors.
COVID-19 prompts public health emergency
A Public Health Emergency was declared for the ACT on Monday 16 March in response to what was at the time a rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation across Australia.
This was the first time a Public Health Emergency has been declared in the ACT; the action allows the Chief Health Officer to take any action, or give any direction, considered to be necessary to protect Canberrans and reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the ACT.
The declaration followed the Federal Government’s announcement on Sunday 15 March that all people arriving in Australia would be required to self-isolate for 14 days.
New restrictions to slow COVID-19 pandemic
Weddings of five, funerals of 10, takeaway only, and 30-minute haircuts. These are just some of the new raft of restrictions Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on 25 March to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic across the nation.
“Large gatherings brought together by particular organised events are things we are seeking to avoid,” he said.
Just four days later, Mr Morrison declared a two-person limit on public gatherings, advising everyone to stay home unless they are shopping for essentials, receiving medical care, exercising or travelling to work or education they are unable to access remotely.
Unprecedented COVID-19 crisis cripples local business
In late March, as COVID-19 updates were a daily event, shelves in supermarkets and pharmacies were left bare by panic buying.
At the same time, many other businesses suffered a sharp downturn due to the impact of coronavirus on community behaviour.
Canberra Business Chamber (CBC) CEO Graham Catt told Canberra Weekly the COVID-19 downturn followed one to three months of tough trading for a lot of businesses.
“Many of our businesses have been doing it tough since last December or January with bushfires, smoke haze and then hail. We’ve dealt with that and the impact on the behaviour of the community.”
Six days after this story, the unprecedented $130 billion ‘JobKeeper wage subsidy package was announced.
Hospitality outlets forced to adapt to extensive restrictions
Hospitality owners had to think and adapt quickly in response to COVID-19 restrictions on trade that limited cafes, bars and restaurants to serving takeaway only.
Sales and Marketing Director at Lala Hospitality Group, Jessica Arena told Canberra Weekly the ban on dining-in forced Lala to close three of their five venues, leaving Bleachers Sports Bar and Amici Deli & Wine Bar open for takeaway and delivery only.
Amici was just one of hordes of hospitality venues across Canberra that adapted to the extensive, rapidly changing restrictions being placed on businesses by transitioning into selling off their excess stock and supplies.
They became a makeshift grocery and liquor store amid the current restrictions, selling everything from toilet paper, bread and milk to their usual fare of wine, cheese, sandwiches and deli goods.
Good news – Canberra foundations unlock $500k for local charities
With a recent surge in demand for community services brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, three Canberra community foundations have teamed up with urgency to distribute a $500,000 grant round to local not-for-profit organisations.
The COVID-19 Rapid Response Grant Round was opened on Friday 27 March by the Chief Minister’s Charitable Fund (administered by Hands Across Canberra), The Snow Foundation and the John James Foundation.
These foundations are encouraging local charities to apply for small grants from $1,000 to $15,000 and medium grants up to $25,000.
Chair of Hands Across Canberra and the Chief Minister’s Charitable Fund ACT, Diane Kargas Bray AM, said grants would inject much-needed funds into the community sector during this uncertain time.