Pubs, hotels, cinemas to be shut down to halt virus spread
by Sam Clench
22nd Mar 2020 9:15 PM
The PM has introduced tough new rules for places where Aussies gather in a bid to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
From midday tomorrow, licensed areas of hotels and pubs will be closed.
That does not include bottle shops, which "work like any other retail premises".
Entertainment venues and cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos and nightclubs will also close, while restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway or home delivery only.
Indoor sporting venues and gyms and churches and places of worship will also close, and enclosed spaces for funerals and "things of that nature" will have to follow the strict four square metre rule "which will be enforced".
Home takeaway deliveries will continue as normal.
The PM warned that even harsher restrictions could be on the cards if Australians failed to observe proper social distancing measures in public places such as beaches and shopping centres.
He pleaded with the community to do the right thing.
"As we've just made very clear, that when that doesn't occur, then more dramatic measures have to be introduced," he said.
"I would simply ask Australians to be calm and exercise some sensible judgement."
The Prime Minister has warned school children that the upcoming Easter break "will not be a holiday" as it normally would.
"This term break will be like none other. This will not be a holiday as it is normally known for the break in term," Mr Morrison said.
"There will not be trips interstate, there will not be those holiday normal type arrangements. There will not be congregating up at the trampoline venue or whatever it happens to be. That will not be happening. It won't be a holiday as anyone has ever known it.
"And it is important I think that families and households understand that because over the course of the term break, we need to ensure that we continue to follow the very strict rules around social distancing.
"This is a critical time. An absolutely critical time. The decisions that parents make, that we all make, over the course of the next few weeks in particular could very seriously determine the trajectory that Australia continues to go on in relation to the coronavirus. So I would seek and implore Australians to follow this advice. You will be saving lives and you'll be saving livelihoods."
Scott Morrison says there is "no change to the medical expert advice" regarding schools closures, and that schools will stay open until the end of term.
He said premiers and chief ministers agreed that schools should reopen on the other side of the term break, subject to the health advice at that time.
"Health advice has been clear and they have remained open and this is important because I want to stress this, I do not want to see our children lose an entire year of their education," the PM said.
"What we will be doing though is allowing parents to the end of this year's school term, to be able to keep their children at home where they choose to.
"But for all of those parents who wish to send their children to school, for an education at the school, those schools will remain open. In addition, schools will seek to provide learning at home in a distance learning framework but you cannot be assured that that will come in place immediately."
Tasmania confirms 22nd coronavirus case
There are now 22 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Tasmania.
On Sunday night, Public Health Director Mark Veitch said two of the newest cases involved people who had recently returned home from the US.
Two were passengers on the ill-fated Ruby Princess cruise which docked in Sydney on Thursday, and another was from the
were people who had recently returned from the United States, two were from the Ruby Princess cruise that arrived in Sydney on March 19 and another was from the Ovation of the Seas cruise that arrived in Sydney on March 18.
The PM has also sat for a pre-recorded interview with 60 Minutes, which has just aired.
That interview was far less fiery than the ABC's, but Mr Morrison didn't shy away from the seriousness of the situation, which he described as one of the toughest since WWII.
In fact, he said the country is once again at war - but this time with an enemy that's proving hard to defeat.
"We are in a war against this virus and all Australians are enlisted to do the right thing," Mr Morrison said.
Confirmed cases of coronavirus continue to soar across the country, despite increasingly strict social distancing measures designed to slow the spread.
When asked how many cases Australia could ultimately see, Mr Morrison said: "Nobody knows."
"What we can provide certainty of is that if somebody finds himself in a position where they have lost their job, I have doubled the jobseeker payment," he added.
"If a business needs to get from now to the end of this crisis, which we think is at least six months, we provide up to $100,000 in grants to help them get there.
"That's why we are ensuring people can break open and access their own superannuation safes.
"These are designed to help. What I cannot do is forecast an unforecastable situation."
One thing the PM is sure of is the economic impact the pandemic will have.
"The economy will be significantly battered by this in a way that we have not seen, in my lifetime," Mr Morrison said.
He appealed for Australians to continue adhering to strict social distancing measures imposed by his government, warning that failure to do so will see more restrictions rolled out.
"People are told to self-isolate for 14 days when they come back (from overseas). People are told to keep 1.5m distance. Venues are told to have an average of four metres for each person.
"This needs to be observed, otherwise very draconian measures need to be enforced that might otherwise have been unnecessary."
Scott Morrison has urged Aussies to stop panic buying, but has warned it will be months before life returns to normal.
The PM said there were plans to eliminate food and medicine shortages, and said Australia was better equipped to deal with those challenges than other countries.
But he said the shutdowns and social distancing were here to stay for now.
"As I've said, there is no need…to rush out and do the things that we were seeing some weeks ago," he said.
"But equally, I need to address this - the suggestion that you can just lock the country down, or a state, for two weeks or four weeks, and the virus passes, is naive, and it's false. That at the end of that two or four weeks and you ease restrictions, the virus just starts again.
"If you put arrangements in place that shut down large parts of the country and the economy, then you better be prepared to hold on to those arrangements for at least the next six months."
The key question of whether schools should shut or not has also seemingly rankled the PM.
Mr Speers said Victoria's state chief health officer had advised they should shut down schools early from Tuesday, and asked Mr Morrison for his advice.
"The universal positions of all states and territories, including Premier Andrews, as recently as late last week, was that all schools should remain open," Mr Morrison said.
"That's changed now, though, hasn't it?" Mr Speers said
"As I flagged at the time, David - if the advice changes into the future, then obviously the measures states and territories will take will also change. But what hasn't changed is that in a situation, if a state and territory was to move to make those decisions, it is vitally important that health workers and other essential workers are in a position to have their children to attend schools. Otherwise, you're taking out 30 per cent of your health workers," the PM said.
Mr Morrison said he knew provisions were in place in NSW but that he was unaware about the Victorian situation, prompting Mr Speers to ask: "Isn't this meant to be done through a national process?"
"This will be done through the National Cabinet. The National Cabinet is the first time this has ever been put in place in our federal history."
Mr Speers asked if the PM was "annoyed" that some of the state's had announced school closures ahead of the National Cabinet meeting, which Mr Morrison denied.
"No, I'm not. Because it's not for any leader to be getting annoyed about anything. It's about leaders being focused on the job they have ahead of them and respecting the job of other leaders."
The discussion between the Prime Minister and David Speers on the ABC's special Coronavirus Shutdown program has gotten off to a messy start.
The two men repeatedly spoke over each other, and Mr Morrison was audibly frustrated for much of the discussion as Mr Speers grilled him on Australia's response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Mr Morrison was repeatedly asked for clarity regarding "who goes to work and not" this week as NSW, Victoria and the ACT roll out a "comprehensive shutdown" of non-essential services.
He was asked to define what was meant by non-essential services, and specifically whether that included workplaces, and how employees would know whether they would be needed at work this week.
The answer was far from clear, as the below exchange shows:
SPEERS: Just on work, lawyers, accountants, administrators, should they be going to work this week? PM: The states themselves will ultimately define what they consider essential. SPEERS: Can you clarify it tonight?
PM: The legislation that they have already considered and have been putting in place for the other bands excluded workplaces, but as you said. There is also the arrangement that is workplaces should be seeking to put in place, like I'm putting in place in this very office, the of people who can be in this office at any one time is 15. SPEERS: But it's a little confusing with respect, right now…(who) should go to work PM: The four square metres per person in an enclosed space and workplaces should be seeking to try to manage that within their workplace, unless for whatever reason, there might be a manufacturing process and in those cases, those persons… SPEERS: But above and beyond that? PM: ..would have suitable precautions in place.
EARLIER: Prime Minister Scott Morrison warns Australians of coronavirus measures, as lockdown looms
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned schools could be closed for the entire year if Australians don't co-operate with authorities to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
The prime minister is meeting with state and territory leaders tonight to discuss further measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus, including the possible closure of schools.
Victorian schools are set to close on Tuesday, with the state bringing forward the Easter holidays.
Other states and territories are open to the idea but have not finalised any decisions.
Mr Morrison said current medical advice was that closing schools would not be useful as it would lead to problems in securing enough doctors, nurses and other health professionals.
However, he said the states and territories could be forced to take "severe measures" if Australians continued to ignore warnings to maintain safe distances from other people, stay home from work if sick, and limit travel.
"If there is not a broad co-operation in the population … states will have to take more severe measures," Mr Morrison told ABC TV tonight.
"(The restrictions) just won't be for a couple of weeks. I mean kids could lose their entire year of school. That's what's at stake here." Mr Morrison said in an earlier interview his family was heeding current medical advice.
"My kids will be going to school in the morning and … we will be following the medical advice," Mr Morrison said.
"For those health workers and others, a complete closure of schools across the country would take out 30 per cent of our health workforce.
"Now, you could imagine what the health impact would be." Mr Morrison said the evidence remained that the incidence of coronavirus among younger people was far lower than for the rest of the population. "But we will continue to consider all of these issues based on the expert advice," he said.
"We will do that in a calm and reasoned manner … all working together and being nationally co-ordinated in our responses." Labor leader Anthony Albanese said it was important to have a consistent approach in terms of schools, questioning whether the prime minister's national cabinet was unified.
"One of the concerns that has been out there is the changing messages from day to day," he said.
"If you think a decision is going to be made next week or the week after, make it today.
"Because the sooner we act, the more effective it will be." Mr Morrison said it was naive to think there could be a one-size-fits-all approach across the states and territories.
"They need to make the decision about how much further they go … on the basis of the health advice they have and the specific situation in their state," he said.
PM'S $189 BILLION VIRUS PLAN
Casual, self-employed and other workers who have lost income due to the coronavirus shut down will be paid at least $550 a fortnight to help them survive the next six months.
Pensioners will receive a second $750 cash hit in July, while businesses who keep on employees will get up to $100,000 to stay afloat amid the deepening economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The economic measures designed to boost Australia's "safety net" unveiled by the federal government yesterday are expected to cost $66 billion, with plans for a third wave of spending already underway.
People suffering hardship will also be allowed to take out up to $20,000 from their superannuation across two financial years.
Anyone who has lost work because of the coronavirus crisis will be able to apply for the jobseeker allowance - which is up to about $550 a fortnight - and get an additional short-term top of $550, meaning many unemployed people will be eligible for $1100 a fortnight.
About one million Australians are expected to take up the coronavirus supplement payment, which has no waiting period and will not be asset tested.
Mr Morrison said the economic plan - announced just 10 days after the first stimulus package - brought the government's measures to $189 billion.
"That is unprecedented in this country," he said.
"We will be supercharging our safety net.
"We'll be supporting the most vulnerable to the impacts of the crisis, those who will feel those first blows."
Mr Morrison warned the government's two rescue packages - totalling about ten per cent of Australia's GDP - would not be the last.
"There will be more issues that even now have not presented themselves or could not even be conceived at this point with what we may face over the next six months," he said.
"We will be working night and day to ensure we bring forward the measures Australia needs to get them on this bridge to the recovery on the other side."
Mr Morrison said people who qualified for the coronavirus supplement through the jobseeker allowance would also gain access to "normal" benefit payments including rental assistance, family tax benefits and the pharmaceutical allowance.
The prime minister said Australians' compliance with social distancing rules, such as stopping unnecessary travel, staying 1.5m away from others and avoiding crowds directly impacted the government's ability to keep the country running.
"People cannot be cavalier about these things," he said.
"They must take them extremely seriously because lives and livelihoods are at stake.
"But the more social distancing we do, the less severe the economic impacts have to be."
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said from July 13 everyone on income support who is not eligible for the coronavirus supplement will get an extra $750 in cash, which is on top of the $750 due to hit welfare recipients' bank accounts from the end of March.
"This includes those receiving the age pension, a carers allowance, family tax benefit and
the Commonwealth senior card. 5.2 million Australians in total," he said.
Mr Frydenberg said Australians in financial stress will also be able to access more of their money in superannuation.
"From April, those affected will gain access to that superannuation, capped at $10,000 this financial year and a further $10,000 next financial year," he said.
Mr Frydenberg said the government would also give retirees more "flexibility" to manage their super by halving the required drawdown amount.
The government has lowered deeming rates in line with the Reserve Bank's emergency rates cut, which is expected to help up to 900,000 pensioners.
The government's package for small and medium businesses also includes a cash injection of at least $20,000 up to a possible $100,000, which will also apply to not for profit organisations with a turnover of less than $50 million.
"This will be a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of employers, like the local hairdresser, the local coffee shop, the local mechanic whose income has been significantly reduced over this difficult period," Mr Frydenberg said.
The Commonwealth is also offering to guarantee unsecured loans of up to $250,000 for three years to encourage reluctant companies to borrow.
The government will also provide relief to directors of corporations for personal liability when the company is trading while insolvent.
Mr Frydenberg said the global and domestic economic environment had seriously deteriorated in the short time since the government's first stimulus package.
"We now expect the economic shock to be deeper, wider and longer," he said.
"Every arm of government and industry is working to keep Australians in jobs and businesses in business and to build a bridge to recovery on the other side."
Labor's treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers said the opposition was concerned the response "lacks urgency" and did not go far enough to protect jobs, but would work with the government to get the legislation through parliament.
"Every Australian needs the Government to get this right, which means getting the original stimulus and today's additional measures out the door as soon as possible, and urgently closing the gaps identified by Labor and others," he said.
A special reduced federal parliament of just 90 MPs will sit today (MON) to pass the emergency measures and ensure cash can flow to recipients as soon as possible.
It is hoped this could be completed within two days, but the prime minister has conceded the parliament may not be able to convene to pass future economic measures.
"We have to be conscious of the fact that because of the spread of the virus, it may not be physically possible to convene the parliament over the next six months," Mr Morrison said.
"So the plan is to move to a much more emergency mode operation for the parliament, but … ensuring that any of the measures that are taken to support Australians are done so consistent with our parliamentary democracy."