Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressed the nation again on Friday afternoon and noted a significant improvement in social distancing conditions of residents in Melbourne and Sydney. For this, he thanked Australians: “We always knew Australians are up to this test.”
Mr Morrison said it was clear – after speaking with G20 leaders on Thursday night – he would rather be in Australia now “with the way we are dealing with this together” than anywhere else.
He warned that both the health and economic impacts of Covid-19 will take the lives and livelihoods of people, and we need to battle both “enemies”.
“Today we’ve decided to take further actions targetted at what is our greatest area of concern,” he said, adding that he would deal with the pressure we have for Australians coming home because two thirds of the cases we have are from Australians coming home. Further measures taken to strengthen self-isolation of people returning.
He said that by 11pm on Saturday, Australians returning home will be quarantined for the 14-day period of their isolation in hotels and other accommodation facilities. Until now, they were required to self-isolate, but now the measures will ensure that there is full compliance. He said that the cost of the accommodation will be paid by the states themselves with NSW bearing most of the cost.
Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said that we are doing a good job at the moment but discouraged a cavalier attitude, adding “the single most important thing we can do is completely stop the capacity for any returning traveller transmitting the virus. We would look after them when they get the virus, as some will do, as they continue to come home.”
The Australian Defence Force will be there to ensure that this mandatory self-isolation is enforced.
Mr Morrison said “every day I can keep an Australian in work” matters provided the health advice is adhered to.
“We will not take these decisions lightly. We will not take them for a matter of convenience. Because every decision we are taking has very real personal impacts,” he said.
Mr Morrison said that businesses may have to close, however said “part of the plan we will be announcing will be to seek to hibernate Australian businesses.”
Asked to give more details about ‘hibernation’, Mr Morrison said that he wanted to set out the objective. “There will be a burden for everyone to share. And that will include the business as well. There will be landlords who will suffer. There will be – the banks will be having to make arrangements with them. Whether councils are involved in providing waivers on rates, things of that nature that, will be something states work through. Whether land tax will be relieved for those who have tenants in a distressed situations – all of these are what we are working through. It isn’t simple,” he said.
Mr Morrison said there would be an announcement as to what would happen at schools, however added that vulnerable families and children of essential workers would be taken care of.
“If they are in a position where they cannot provide the suitable arrangements for their children to learn at home, then I’m assured that no child will be turned away under those circumstances,” he said.