Indoor gatherings of 100 or more banned

Indoor gatherings of 100 or more banned

Politics
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Prime Minister says social distancing of 1.5 metres should be in place everywhere.

The government has banned inside gatherings of 100 people or more, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Wednesday.

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The ban applies to non-essential gatherings, so transport is not impacted and nor are health facilities, Prisons are not impacted by the ban, nor are workplaces including mining sites and supermarkets. Mr Morrison said they come under the definition of essential. Schools, childcare, universities and hotels are also not impacted by the ban.

But churches, mosques and other places of worship must comply, including with the 1.5 metre social distancing guideline, except among family groups, he said. Moving to online church services would be sensible, he said.

Outside, gatherings are allowed up to 500 people.

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said hand-shaking must now stop.

"No more hand-shaking, no more hugging, except in your family. No more scant attention to hand hygiene. Use hand sanitiser," he said.

The government has upgraded its travel advice to the highest level for the first time.

"Do not travel abroad, do not go overseas," Mr Morrison said. "That is a very clear instruction. For those of you who were thinking of going overseas in the school holidays, don't."

Mr Morrison said domestic air travel was low risk. But he said people should not visit remote parts of the country, and the states and territories are set to impose travel bans.

New limits have been imposed on aged care.

Visitors to aged care homes have been limited to two people at a time, including professional visits.

Visits are only allowed in a resident's room or outside. Social activities and entertainment are banned in aged care homes and school groups are banned. No one aged 16 or younger is allowed in an aged care home without a special exemption. Mr Morrison said aged care homes can put in "very strict arrangements" on a case-by-case basis for visits when someone is dying.

Schools remain open.

"Whatever we do we have got to do for six months," Mr Morrison said.

If schools closed, tens of thousands of jobs would be lost, and the availability of health workers would be hit by 30 per cent, he said. "That will put peoples lives at risk. Let's keep our heads when it comes to this. "There is a national public interest here in keeping schools open. And our advice is it's not being done at the detriment of the health of any children."

Professor Murphy said in Hubei, only 2.4 per cent of the cases were in people under 19.

"We need to make sure that no sick child goes to school. We need to make sure that no sick teacher goes to school. We need to try and avoid large assemblies and other gatherings at schools,: he said, while acknowledging "it's not really possible for children in a classroom to keep 1.5m apart from each other".

"We've got to be practical about that," he said. "But schools should practice very good hand hygiene, too. Very hard to do in a school, but we can trust our teachers to do it. Children should be washing their hands regularly, particularly when they're eating and particularly when they're touching common areas. So it will be hard for schools, but it would be much, much, much harder for society if the schools were closed."

Twenty thousand student nurses in Australia will be mobilised into the workforce, Mr Morrison said.

He warned that disruption would last at least six months.

"Life is changing in Australia as it is changing all around the world," he said.

"This is a once in 100-year type of event. We haven't seen this sort of thing in Australia since the end of the first world war."

The government is set to announce significant support for hospitality, tourism and air travel, with deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack announcing that fees will be waived for the airline industry. The government has waived aviation fuel excise, Airservices charges for domestic travel and regional aviation security charges.

The total cost of the measures are estimated to be $715 million, with an upfront estimated benefit of $159 million to our airlines for reimbursement of applicable charges paid by domestic airlines since 1 February 2020.

Mr Morrison said the government 's measures were aimed to "keep Australia running, we are going to keep Australia functioning".

But he said there was "no too-weak answer to what we are confronting".

"Wherever possible we need to keep Australians working - working on the essential services and the economy that Australians need to get through this and this is a critical - a critical issue in ensuring Australia can keep functioning and, importantly, keep delivering the important services that are necessary which, at the end of the day, mean that we can support the most vulnerable in our community," Mr Morrison said.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Canberra. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Canberra. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

  • For information on COVID-19, please go to the federal Health Department's website.
  • You can also call the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080
  • If you have serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call Triple Zero (000)

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