Prime Minister Scott Morrison has revealed a long list of activities — including barbecues and house parties — that will no longer be tolerated under Australia’s tough new coronavirus lockdown laws.
Weddings and funerals in Australia will also cease unless they have fewer than five to 10 people present, as the Prime Minister ordered the indefinite closure of places including libraries, beauty therapy clinics and places of worship.
Scott Morrison said it had “been a very difficult decision” to prevent large weddings and funerals from taking place.
“Weddings can continue to be conducted where it is just the couple, the celebrant and the witnesses, that’s no more than five people,” he said.
“Sadly, also, and I know this will be very difficult, funerals to no more than 10 persons observing the rules around the four-square metre rule and the social distancing practices.”
Social-distancing practices include a 1.5m distance between people, with no hugging or touching allowed.
Speaking in Canberra tonight, Mr Morrison said the National Cabinet had agreed to extend the lockdown rules that were announced on Sunday night, with a long list of additional places included that would not be permitted to operate.
“There was an initial list of activities that largely went to the issues of social gatherings, particularly in enclosed spaces, that was being done to restrict the amount of contact between people outside activities such as going to work and things of that nature,” he said.
“And so tonight, we worked to complete that list of those types of activities that we believe are appropriate at this time to slow the spread of the virus to ensure that we are covering all the necessary activities and business functions inside premises that should be considered at this time.”
From midnight tomorrow night, all of the following businesses and activities will be shut down:
- Food courts
- Auction houses
- Open house inspections
- Outdoor and indoor markets (excluding food markets like Flemington that are crucial to the food supply)
- Beauty therapy
- Nail salons
- Tattoo parlours
- Amusement parks
- Community and recreation centres
- Health clubs
- Fitness centres
The Prime Minister says holding a house party could become a criminal offence, in an effort to protect Australians from the spread of COVID-19.
“Gathering together in that way, even around the large family table in the family home when all the siblings get together and bring the kids, these are not things we can do now,” he said.
“All of these things present risks and they obviously present them to the elderly members of our families as well who we need to protect.
“House parties where someone wants to now have the social events, not at clubs and venues like that but to organise a party at someone’s home, the states and territories will be particularly looking at that one and consider whether they’ll specifically put measures in place that could lead to that being an offence for those who have organised those types of events.”
Overseas travel ‘banned’
The Government will use unprecedented biosecurity powers to totally ban Australians from going overseas.
Mr Morrison said the Smart Traveller “do not travel advice” was now no longer a warning, but an order.
“That will turn into a ban using the biosecurity powers that were afforded to us by the Governor-General through the Minister for Health,” he said.
“People defying that advice and looking to go overseas on leisure travel, they (now) can’t do that because when they come home they put Australians at risk.”
Mr Morrison said there would be exceptions to the rules, which would include people involved in aid work in the Pacific.
It may involve compassionate travel and essential travel for employment, things of that nature.
“No-one should be getting on a plane and going overseas, we have been making the point for some time,” Mr Morrison said.
“The direction is being worked on overnight, a soon as that direction is signed off by the health minister, it will come into force then and that will happen tomorrow.”
Mr Morrison paid tribute to those who were out of work as a result of the lockdown measures.
“Australians who have lost hours, lost work, businesses that have been forced to close businesses, these are heart-breaking events in our nation’s history and story.
“We are not unconscious of the real impact these measures are having on the lives of daily Australians so we will continue to do everything we can, both as a Federal Government and at State Government and Territory Governments around the country, to do all we can to support our people through what is going to be an incredibly difficult time.”
PM defends decision to keep schools open
The Prime Minister defended his position to keep schools open to keep parents in work.
“The position of the national cabinet is that schools should remain open and they can provide distance learning for those parents that wish their children to remain at home,” he said.
“But importantly, for those parents who have jobs, who need to send their children to school for their learning, because they can’t stay at home with them, because they need to be at work, these are nurses, they’re doctors, they’re people who are working at Centrelink, people doing very important jobs.”
Education Minister Dan Tehan will tomorrow meet with the education national unions to discuss a set of arrangements that keep schools open, but also protect those teachers and other staff who are kept working.
Chief medical officer ‘very worried’
The Chief Medical Officer says he is “very worried” about the significant growth in COVID-19 cases in Australia in past days, saying the Government will “not tolerate” anyone breaching self-isolation orders.
Dr Brendan Murphy said the “very, very steep growth” in cases was concerning and more needed to be done to prevent the coronavirus spread.
“I want to emphasise again that we are really serious now about a return traveller, you leave the airport, you go home and stay there for 14 days and the States and Territories will be checking on you,” he said.
Dr Murphy admitted the social distancing measures were “draconian” but absolutely necessary to defeat the virus.
“We have to change the way we interact, as human beings, in our society, for quite a long time,” he said.
Text messaging to start ‘very soon’
The Prime Minister says text messages will be pushed to Australians’ phones “very, very soon”.
Scott Morrison defended the public health campaign so far, pointing to messaging on social media and bus shelters.
“That (campaign) will continue,” he said.
“The public advertising whether it is on television or radio or the many other means of communication, it is all being deployed and it is all being increased.
“The text messaging, yes, that will be coming very, very soon — very soon. We will be using all of those devices to get that message out but I think it’s pretty clear that most people, if not every person in this country.”