Businesses must turn sick away as COVID-19 cases grow

Sick people with flu-like symptoms must be turned away from any shop or workplace if they refuse to take "personal responsibility" and stay home when unwell.

Australia's Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy said he would "protect" and "defend" any employer or business owner who refused entry to someone who was visibly sick during the coronavirus pandemic.

"If one of your colleagues or an employee or a client turns up, you have every right to say, go away, I am not going to let you in, I am not going to treat you ... unless you're a doctor, of course," he said.

Prof Murphy said people needed to take responsibility for their own actions and change the "mentality" of pushing through an illness.

"Everyone has to practise staying at home when you are unwell," he said.

"All of us over our lives have been, on occasions, wanting to soldier on with a cold and a flu-like illness.

"We cannot do that anymore."


Prof Murphy said while the current advice was for people to continue to work from home where possible, experts were preparing strategies for the expected increase in public transport use as the economy reopens.

"Public transport authorities have introduced a very enhanced cleaning, we need to have hand sanitiser available," he said.

"One of the most important things is to reduce the density ... social distancing is not possible when you are crowded.

Prof Murphy said health officials were "keen" for employers to look at staggered start and finish time.

"I think we have to think about a very different way of people may be starting at work, some starting at seven o'clock (through to) 10 o'clock and people finishing at different times," he said.

"We have to think differently about that so there is a lot of planning going."


Australian Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy at the Department of Health in Canberra. Picture: Sean Davey
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy.


Australia's coronavirus tally has increased by just 14 cases to 6,941.

There have been no deaths in the last 24 hours and 14 people are currently on ventilators in intensive care.

Prof Murphy said his key message as restrictions eased was for Australians to continue to take "personal responsibility" for social distancing so younger people did not put the vulnerable population at risk.

"It is those mobile, fit adults, the people from 22 to 70, in the main, some in the 70s as well ... that is the age group that is transmitting this virus," he said.

"That is the group that we have to make sure we control the virus in."

Prof Murphy said the 97 deaths in Australia from coronavirus were overwhelming very elderly people.

"People have said to me, why don't you just protect really carefully all those with chronic conditions and the elderly," he said.

"(But) as we have seen already, that's just not possible, if you've got widespread community transmission."

Prof Murphy said because the virus was "incredibly infectious" it would be inevitable the disease would spread to aged care, which could cause "terrible problems".

"So we can't allow significant community transmission if we want to protect our elderly," he said.

Prof Murphy said relying on police and other authorities to enforce social distancing would never be as effective as people simply deciding to follow the rules themselves.

"It is as much about the rules and regulations as it is about personal responsibility," he said.

"So if you are going to a shopping centre to buy something, go and buy something, but don't hang around the shopping centre for half-an-hour mingling for no purpose. Go home."

He said if people did not behave "in a way that is respectful of social distancing norms", Australia could again see widespread transmission of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders agreed on Friday to a three-step plan to restart business and community activities. However, the states and territories are set to move through the three stages at different speeds, depending on their health situation and local conditions.