Just after 9am on Wednesday the Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered a clear update to the nation on Australia’s response to the developing COVID-19 pandemic.
It was a particularly strong performance, with the clarity and quality of Morrison’s communication, noted.
This is good from the PM on hoarding, and very unlike his usual not-wanting-to-annoy-ordinary-Australians approach.
— Sean Kelly (@mrseankelly) March 17, 2020
The practical measures being introduced include:
- The government has banned all non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people. This does not apply to public transport, courts and prisons, offices, factories and construction sites.
- Social distancing is critical and needs to be exercised wherever possible.
- We will not have a widespread lockdown as many have predicted or suggested. The Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy, said the problem is that after that period “the virus will just flare up again”. “The idea that you can just turn everything off for two weeks and then turn it all back on again and it all goes away, that is not the evidence,” the PM said.
- Keeping Australians working is paramount.
- Given this virus will not be contained for at least six months the PM said Australia must consider “sustainable and scalable” measures.
- For this reason schools will remain open with parents urged to refrain from sending any child who is sick. The disruption that six months of schools being closed would be severe and cost tens of thousands of jobs.
- Strict restrictions are now in place for visiting aged care homes. Group visits are now banned, a maximum of two visitors are permitted at one time per day, only short visits are permitted, avoid child visitors; no social gatherings in aged care. Facilities will have discretion to adjust this for end-of-life scenarios.
- Australians are strongly discouraged from travelling overseas. Virgin Australia will suspend all its international flights from 30 March to 14 June. Domestic travel is considered low risk. The government will give a $715m bailout package to airlines.
From PM Scott Morrison just now: “We are upgrading the travel van to level 4 on the entire world. The travel advice to every Australians is DO NOT GO OVERSEAS.” This is an indefinite ban. #auspol
— Julia Holman (@JulesHolman) March 17, 2020
- All overseas Anzac Day ceremonies have been cancelled, including the Gallipoli ceremony in Turkey.
- Hoarding needs to stop. “I can’t be more blunt about it. Stop it,” the PM said. “It’s been one of the most disappointing things in Australian behaviour that I’ve seen.”
- The government still working on economic plan to provide a safety net for individuals & small businesses.
- New supplies of testing kits are on the way.
— Peter van Onselen (@vanOnselenP) March 17, 2020
Both the Pm and CMO made the point that for many Australians the illness would be mild, but for the elderly and health-challenged the virus is far more serious. Keeping them safe is critical.