PM announces new restrictions to slow COVID-19 pandemic

NEW UPDATED RESTRICTIONS 29/3: Morrison declares two person limit on public gatherings

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 last night to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic across the nation.

“Large gatherings brought together by particular organised events are things we have seeking to avoid,” he said.

Here’s a summary of the latest in the list of businesses and services that have been shut down and which remain open under the new restrictions, on the proviso they must observe social-distancing measures and 4sqm per person rules.

  • Weddings – 5 people maximum; just the couple, the celebrant and the witnesses
  • Funerals – 10 people maximum [exemptions now apply for ‘hardship’ provisions]
  • Outdoor boot camps and personal training – 10 people maximum
  • Family gatherings – limit to immediate family in household only
  • Cafes and restaurants – takeaway only, no keep cups accepted
  • Food courts in shopping centres – takeaway only
  • Real estate – people gathering at auctions and open houses cannot continue [property inspections can continue by appointment only]
  • Hairdressers and barber shops – can continue if they strictly manage social-distancing and limitations of the number of people in their premise (4sqm per person) and restrict appointments to 30 minutes maximum [30-minute limit has since been overruled]
  • Food markets (such as Fyshwick, Belconnen, farmers markets) – open
  • Other outdoor and indoor markets – closed
  • Beauty therapy, tanning, waxing, nail salons, tattoo parlours, spas and massage parlours – closed
  • Physiotherapists, health related and allied health services – can continue
  • Galleries, museums, national institutions, historic sites, libraries, community centres, youth centres, local government non-essential facilities, swimming pools – closed
  • Community facilities such as community halls, RSLs, PCYCs – closed
  • Places of worship – closed, except for funerals (maximum 10 people) and weddings (maximum 5 people)
  • Cinemas, nightclubs, casinos, gaming or gambling venues, adult entertainment venues, concert venues, theatres, arenas, auditoriums, stadiums, amusement parks and arcades, play centres, both indoor and outdoor – closed
  • House parties – government considering making it an offence to organise such gatherings
  • Community and recreation centres, health clubs, fitness centres, yoga, barre, spin facilities, saunas, bath houses, wellness centres – closed
  • International travel – banned

Here is the Prime Minister’s media statement (dated 24 March) on the national restrictions:

Australian governments are working together to slow the spread of coronavirus to save lives.

Every extra bit of time allows us to better prepare our health system and put measures in place to protect Australian lives.

We will be living with this virus for at least six months, so social distancing measures to slow this virus down must be sustainable for at least that long to protect Australian lives, allow Australia to keep functioning and keep Australians in jobs. 

The Prime Minister, state and territory Premiers and Chief Ministers met on 24 March 2020 as the National Cabinet. 

We are leading the world on testing with more than 161,000 Australians tested and around 2,000 Australians confirmed cases. In contrast to many countries, the majority of Australian cases of coronavirus have been from people returning overseas or direct contacts with people who had been overseas. 

However, National Cabinet noted that there has been a significant growth in the number of cases in Australia, with a significant number of Australians returning from overseas and small community outbreaks associated with returned travellers.

National Cabinet reiterated that practicing good hygiene and keeping a healthy physical distance between individuals is our most powerful weapon in fighting this virus and saving lives. 

The highest priority should be placed on social isolation measures as well as strict and rapid contact tracing of individuals. It is paramount that contact tracing occur quickly and thoroughly and that public data is available to support this effort.

Leaders again call on all Australian to do their bit to save the lives of other Australians. 

Australians should stay at home, unless shopping for essentials, travelling to and from work – where you cannot work from home, going to school and exercising. Keep visitors to your home at a minimum. In outdoor spaces do not congregate in groups.  

Leaders thank those members of the public who are adhering to social distancing measures. However, leaders expressed their disappointment at some members of the community who are disregarding social distancing measures and, by doing so, putting the lives of older and vulnerable Australians at risk.

Ban on Australians travelling overseas

Leaders noted that the Commonwealth Government will implement a ‘do not travel’ ban on Australians travelling overseas under the Biosecurity Act 2015.

This will help avoid travellers returning to Australia with coronavirus and the risks of spreading coronavirus to other countries.

Exemptions, which will be managed by the Australian Border Force, will apply to a range of categories of travellers, including for those citizens ordinarily resident overseas, where travel is essential or necessary, where travel is in our national interest, and on compassionate and humanitarian grounds.

These restrictions are aligned with the Government’s decision to raise the Smartraveller Travel Advice to Level 4 – Do Not Travel overseas.

Clarification of current measures and new measures

If we want to slow the spread of the virus, everyone must implement appropriate social distancing in accordance with state and territory laws.

National Cabinet agreed to new and enhanced social distance measures, building on the existing measures that are in place.

National Cabinet confirmed and clarified the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) advice regarding the requirements of previously announced measures, in particular those related to non-essential gatherings and outdoor gatherings.

National Cabinet will meet again on Wednesday 25 March 2020.

Additional prohibited activities and venues to apply from 11.59pm (local time) 25 March 2020

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