Government calls halt to social gatherings

The prime minister Scott Morrison has unveiled “dramatic and drastic” measures to contain the spread of coronavirus including shutting down what he described as all principal places of social gathering from midday on Monday.

That includes pubs, clubs, casinos, nightclubs, cinemas, churches and mosques, and indoor sporting facilities.

Restaurants and cafes will only be able to provide home delivery and takeaway services.

The lockdown will last four weeks after which it will be reviewed.

His announcement late on Sunday followed a meeting of the national cabinet after Victoria, the ACT and NSW indicated they were prepared to go it alone on moves to lock down non-essential services in their states.

Mr Morrison said the restrictions were only stage one measures and came in response to images of crowds at Bondi Beach and people at nightclubs over the weekend which showed many Australians were disregarding new social distancing rules.

“There is a need to move to widespread restrictions, Mr Morrison told a media conference.

He said stage two, which was yet to be defined, would be brought in if stage one wasn’t observed.

However schools would remain open and while parents who wanted to keep their children home would be able to, schools would remain open until the end of the school term and beyond subject to health advice.

Parents who kept children home from school would be held responsible for their behaviour, he said.

Victorian schools will close next week after bringing the end of the school term forward to March 24.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced on Monday morning that schools in the state will remain open but parents were being encouraged to keep their children at home.

Meanwhile, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced that a coronavirus enforcement squad with 500 officers will be established to do spot checks on people who should be in isolation and enforce bans on gatherings.

“The new coronavirus enforcement squad at Victoria Police will take action against anyone caught doing the wrong thing,” he said.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy said the measures were drastic and dramatic but necessary.

“We have to stop the rapid spread of this virus,” he said.

The announcement came on the same day the government announced the second stage of its economic plan the keep the economy on life support during the pandemic.

The $66.1 billion safety net includes measures to boost unemployment support, provide early tax free access to superannuation and cash handouts to charities and small and medium businesses.

Earlier on Sunday, Mr Morrison told the ABC the question of Australia going into recession was now “academic”.

National cabinet meets again on Tuesday when tenancy laws will be on the agenda.

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4 thoughts on “Government calls halt to social gatherings

  1. I understand the reasoning behind the decision to keep schools open but, since children can contract the virus without symptoms, they may well infect their whole family (including medical and emergency workers). Better perhaps to keep children home but to keep some school facilities open with minimal staff to care for children whose parents are still working, including doctors and nurses, emergency responders, pharmacy staff, supermarket employees etc.

  2. Another idea I’ve already put forward elsewhere. Airport hotels would be a good place to isolate people with mild infections. Or those returning from overseas. They could be catered for adequately. Resorts and theme park hotels would also be possibilities for those with mild infections.
    Putting people with mild symptoms in hospitals is counter-intuitive. We need those facilities for those with complications. We also need to limit the exposure of hospital and medical personnel to the virus as much as possible. Flooding hospitals with infected patients with mild symptoms just to isolate them would increase the risk of transmission to medical staff.
    People returning on cruise ships, as in the case in Sydney, could remain isolated on the cruise ship rather that disperse into the community for home isolation.

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