Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a new round of ‘stage one’ restrictions across the country on Sunday night with the closure of restaurants, cafes and other entertainment venues as a result of coronavirus fears. He stopped short of closing schools, but warned that new draconian measures would follow if people did not take social distancing seriously.

“Leaders thank those members of the public who are adhering to social distancing measures. However, leaders expressed their disappointment at some members of the community who are disregarding social distancing measures and, by doing so, putting the lives of older and vulnerable Australians at risk,” he said.

Following the late night announcements, Monday morning in Melbourne was empty with businesses shut down and the public bracing themselves for another week of even more stringent self-isolation and social-distancing.

“We will be living with this virus for at least six months, so social distancing measures to slow this virus down must be sustainable for at least that long to protect Australian lives, allow Australia to keep functioning and keep Australians in jobs,” Mr Morrison said following the meeting of state and territory premiers and chief ministers on 22 March.

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The following facilities are restricted in Australia from noon on Monday, 23 March, and there were hints that other facilities would be considered under stage two restrictions, if necessary:

  • Pubs, registered and licenced clubs (excluding bottle shops attached to these venues), hotels (excluding accommodation)
  • Gyms and indoor sporting venues
  • Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos, and night clubs
  • Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery
  • Religious gatherings, places of worship or funerals (in enclosed spaces and other than very small groups and where the one person per four square metre rule applies).
  • Isolated remote community hubs are not included in these restrictions.

These measures also apply to outdoor spaces associated with the above venues.

Leaders noted that these enhanced measures build on existing measures to slow the virus and save lives. These include:

  • No non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people outside or more than 100 people inside.
  • All non-essential indoor gatherings of less than 100 people must have no more than one person per 4sqm. All
  • Australians should expect their local businesses to be following this rule.
  • Where possible, keep 1.5 metres between yourself and others
  • Avoid non essential travel
  • Restrictions on entering aged care homes to protect older Australians

Leaders expressed deep regret for business owners and employees who would be impacted, with the goal being to reduce the spread of the virus and flatten the curve to save as many lives as possible.

State Premiers and Chief Ministers agreed they would give effect to these restrictions through their own legislative processes and make announcements accordingly.

Premiers and Chief Ministers will consider further Stage 2 restrictions if social distancing measures are not adhered to.

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Statement on schools

All leaders agreed that children should go to school on Monday. Leaders agreed that we cannot see children lose an entire year of their education as a result of school closures caused by coronavirus.

  • Leaders committed to the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) advice that says that it is safe to keep schools open.
  • Leaders also thanked all teachers and school staff for their support.
  • State Premiers and Chief Ministers agreed that schools will remain open through to the end of the current school terms to support students whose parents choose to send their children to school. Victoria’s school break will commence on Tuesday 24 March 2020.
  • All Leaders have committed to re-open schools at the end of the school break, subject to the advice of the Australian Health Principal Protection Committee.

It was decided that parents should be responsible for the conduct of children who they keep at home to ensure that they adhere to social distancing arrangements in place.