Travel bans at Level Four: all overseas travel now off the cards
Gatherings of 100 people or more banned
Aged-care home visits banned
Schools to remain open
PM slams hoarders
Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared a biosecurity emergency on Wednesday announcing a number of unprecedented updates as coronavirus cases in Australia surge.
The announcements relate to restrictions on indoor gatherings of a 100 people or more in pubs, clubs and restaurants and a “Level Four” ban on overseas travel to every country in the world, measures the PM compared to those in place during WW1.
“Life is changing in Australia, as it is changing all around the world,” he said.
“This is a once in 100 year type event. We haven’t seen this sort of thing in Australia since the end of the first World War.”
Morrison said there was “no two-week answer to what we’re confronting”, and warned we could be looking at six months of uncertainty.
At least 450 people in Australia have tested positive while five people have died after contracting COVID-19, one in WA, three in NSW and one in Queensland.
The virus has killed more than 7,000 people worldwide and continues to spread at a rapid pace.
Here are the latest updates:
Non-essential Gatherings Of 100 People Or More Banned
The government will enforce tough new restrictions on non-essential indoor gatherings of 100 or more as of Wednesday.
What is essential and non-essential?
“That is an airport, public transportation, which includes public transportation facilities, such as stations, platforms, stops, trains, trams, buses, these are essential,” Morrison explained.
“Airport, public transportation, medical services and facilities, aged care, youth justice centres, prisons, and shopping centres (are essential).
“Medical and health service facilities, emergency service facilities, disability or aged care facilities, correctional facilities, youth justice centres or other places of custody, courts or tribunals.
“Parliaments, food market, supermarket, grocery store, retail store, shopping centre that is necessary for the normal business of those premises. Office buildings, factories, construction sites, mining sites, necessary for their normal operation.”
Morrison said “Non-essential is everything else” and it will be up to state and territory leaders to decide if they will restrict groups of less than 100 people gathering indoors, ie smaller pubs and restaurants.
“Further measures on gatherings indoor of less than 100 people are being worked on by the states and territories, in terms of their practical implications,” Morrison said adding “social distancing” is imperative at this time.
“It is important that we try and observe those social distancing practices which is a metre and a half apart, wherever that is practicable to ensure we can contain and limit the spread of the virus.”
Level 4 Travel Bans
Travel bans on Australians are now at Level Four indefinitely which means every overseas destination around the world is off the cards.
“That is the first time that has ever happened in Australia’s history,” Morrison told reporters.
“The travel advice to every Australian is ‘Do not travel abroad’. Do not go overseas. That is very clear that instruction.
“For those who are thinking of going overseas in the school holidays, don’t. Don’t go overseas.”
The government has implemented waivers on aviation-related charges to airlines, government fees on air carriers will be waived out over six months from 6 April with a rebate from those being paid back from 1 February.
“This will provide support for our aviation sector, who has been the hardest hit from the arrangements, as you have seen from the various announcements from the major airlines.”
Health advice is that schools will remain open. The PM pointed out that Australia is following Singapore’s lead on this move. More about schools here.
Aged Care Visits
Nursing home residents will be allowed just two visitors a day.
Morrison said this includes social workers, family and friends and professional services. Children are urged not to visit.
He also outlined a number of other groups that are now banned from aged care facilities: “Those who have returned from overseas in the last 14 days. Those who have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days. Those with fever or symptoms or acute respiratory infection, symptoms, those who haven’t been vaccinated against influenza after the 1st of May.”
Morrison said it was important people do not visit remote Indigenous communities for the foreseeable future.
“We are working on a list of those areas that can be declared, with the states and territories, and that will be driven by the states and territories because they have the best information on what the sensitivities are.”
The prime minster slammed panic buyers, calling the practice unAustralian.
“Stop hoarding. I can’t be more blunt about it. Stop it,” he said.
“It is not sensible, it is not helpful and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis. That is not who we are as a people. It is not necessary.”