Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged Australians to keep the country going as we experience unprecedented border closures and shutdowns amid the spread of coronavirus.
“I need all of you to keep going,” he said at a press conference on Friday as he rolled out new rules around indoor gatherings, stimulus, schools and remote Indigenous communities.
“All Australians are going to be making sacrifices,” he added.
Here are the major updates on coronavirus in Australia as of Friday 20 March:
After banning all non-essential gatherings of 100 people or more earlier in the week, the PM announced venues that host less than 100 people must provide four square metres of space per person in an enclosed area.
“That’s 2m by 2m. So for example, if you’ve got a room, if you’ve got a premises, if you’ve got a meeting room, that’s 100 square metres, then you can have 25 people in that room,” Morrison told reporters.
The guidelines mean people can still go to venues like pubs and restaurants depending on how big the venue is and how many people are already in the establishment. Some restaurants have been spacing tables out to comply with guidelines and adhere to the social distancing advice of staying 1.5 meters away from other people.
The prime minister and Australia’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Professor Brendan Murphy urged people who do not feel well to please stay home.
Morrison announced that relief for residential and commercial renters was being worked out to avoid mass-evictions in hardship conditions.
“That work will be done by states and territories, as it is a state and territory matter, and that work will be led by Western Australia, together with New South Wales, working with all the other states and territories, to bring back some model that can be applied in hardship cases,” he said.
Schools To Stay Open
There is still no plan to shutter schools, the PM said.
“It is in the national interest to ensure that we keep schools open, and I want to thank all of those schools who have been putting those arrangements in place,” Morrison explained.
Self-Isolation Warning: “Your Civil Duty”
Australia’s CMO issued a stern warning for those who have arrived from overseas and are thinking of breaking the self-isolation rule.
“This is not an advisory. This is your civic duty to your fellow Australians to stay home for that entire 14 days, if you’ve come back to Australia. No exceptions,” he said.
“And if you see anyone who is not abiding by that, a recent traveller, make sure they do because we are really serious about that.”
Aussie Man Dies Of COVID-19 In Iceland
A 36-year-old man in Iceland has become the youngest Australian to die of coronavirus, news.com.au reported on Friday.The man died not long after presenting to a medical clinic in the port town of Húsavík - a popular whale watching spot.
New Death In NSW, Cases Surge
NSW Health has said there’s been 75 new cases of COVID-19 in the state over the last 24 hours, with the national toll of confirmed cases expected to hit 756.
Four people who attended the Christ Ryde Civic Centre service on 8 March have contracted the virus, Dr Kerry Chant, NSW Chief Medical Officer, told media on Friday.
Australia Health Minister Brad Hazzard said there are three confirmed cases of COVID-19 from the Ruby Princess cruise that pulled into Sydney on Thursday.
The national death toll stands at seven as of Friday.
The federal budget will be delayed by five months to October saying the coronavirus pandemic made it impossible to make sensible economic forecasts, as it prepared to dramatically expand its stimulus spending to avoid recession.
The country’s banks said separately they would defer loan repayments for small businesses impacted by coronavirus for six months at a cost to their bottom lines of $8 billion, amid fears of massive job losses.
“The idea that you can actually put together any sort of forecast around the economy at this time is simply not sensible,” said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who welcomed the banks’ move as a “game changer”.