Bars, cafes and restaurants will endure strict customer limits in drastic new social distancing rules to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, the government has announced.
The number of people allowed in an indoor venue will be dictated by its size, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed.
Announcing the new crowd restrictions, Mr Morrison said there will be a maximum limit of ‘four square metres provided per person in an enclosed space’.
When in a venue, patrons should try and sit a minimum of 1.5 metres away from one another.
He also warned a unprecedented ban may be brought in on domestic travel next week ahead of the school holidays – and pleaded with holidaymakers not to fly.
In drastic restrictions unseen since the Second World War, families everyday lives will be impacted for the next six months, as the country continues its COVID-19 fightback.
Addressing the nation on Friday, Mr Morrison said he needed people ‘to keep going’ and ‘do their bit for their fellow Australians’.
Patrons have a drink in a near empty pub in Melbourne’s CBD on March 18 (pictured) as businesses suffer a decline in footfall
There are now 856 confirmed cases of coronavirusw in Australia and seven people have died
‘Life is continuing to change,’ he said. ‘And together we are going to have to continue to adapt to those changes.’
LATEST RULES TO CONTROL CORONAVIRUS SPREAD
On Friday, Scott Morrison announced new rules for indoor spaces.
It means the number of people in a venue is dictated by the size of the room.
There needs to be four-square-metres per patron.
This means that if a venue is 100-square-metres, 25 people are allowed inside.
Event then, Australians are asked to try and keep 1.5 metres apart from one another.
‘The rise in the number of cases means we need to continue to take action to flatten the curve.’
He also announced relief for vulnerable tenants who may be unable to pay their rent.
The government also pledged an additional $444.6 million in additional funding from the Commonwealth for age care facilities, helping the most vulnerable.
This includes $90 million for home care facilities, including Meals on Wheels.
It also includes $234.9 million for a retention bonus to all staff who continue working in both residential and home care.
It comes as health officials announced the country’s seventh coronavirus death, with the number of confirmed cases rising to 856.
Passengers wait to check-in at the departures hall at the international airport in Sydney on March 18 (pictured) ahead of the country’s borders closing
The Sydney Opera House (pictured virtually empty on Tuesday) may also be forced to close under drastic new coronavirus measures
‘This additional funding is being focused on those who are most vulnerable, to get them the additional support so they can get access to the essential things they need,’ Mr Morrison explained.
‘Particularly through things like Meals on Wheels and home care support, and the other things older Australians will need going through this time.’
Mr Morrison confirmed he was working to protect renters and homeowners who may struggle to make ends meet, as thousands of Australians face redundancy.
The matter will be left to states to work out relief for vulnerable tenants.
The budget was also pushed back until October 6, saying it was ‘simply not sensible’ to put any forecast on the economy at this tumultuous time.
He confirmed the government were still expecting restrictions to continue for at least six months.
As of 9pm on Friday, the country is closing its border to all non-residents, with hopes a decline in travellers and immigration with help halt the virus.
On Wednesday, the government introduced a ban on indoor gatherings of 100 people or more, but didn’t shutdown venues.
People are now being told to avoid all travel to remote indigenous communities, and reconsider any travel altogether – even domestically.
Large crowds of elderly people are seen outside Woolworths in Sunbury on Tuesday (pictured)
Panic buying has resulted in supermarkets left stripped of toilet paper, pasta, rice and frozen food, as well as tinned and other dried goods. Pictured: a frustrated man trying to buy toilet paper in a Melbourne Woolworths supermarket
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 6,766
New South Wales: 3,025
Western Australia: 551
South Australia: 438
Australian Capital Territory: 106
Northern Territory: 28
TOTAL CASES: 6,766
But Mr Morrison stood by his decision to keep schools open.
‘It still remains the case that the facts are that the incidents of cases amongst younger people is much lower than for the rest of the population,’ he said.
‘And it is still very much the case that 30 percent of our health workforce would be compromised if schools were to be shut around the country.’
It comes as a combined $105 million of cheap cash is being flushed into the economy by the government and the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) to keep it afloat.
Restrictions have been placed on medicine and prescriptions, as the Aussie dollar fell to a 17-year low and is now worth just 55 US cents.
The RBA announced an unprecedented inflation rate cut, to 0.25 per cent, and Qantas has stood down 20,000 employees.
Schools are remaining open across the country, as Mr Morrison and top health officials insisted it is the safest option for the nation’s families.
‘What you do, you’ve got to keep doing for the next six months,’ the prime minister told Sky News when addressing school closures.
‘Shut them down, they won’t open again. And that means your children will miss what is effectively a whole year of their education.
‘Now if there’s not a good health reason to do that and risk the child’s education or cause them rather significant economic cost…you should keep the schools open.
‘And that’s why I’ve formed such a strong view on this.’
He insisted social distancing and proper hand sanitation was enough to keep children and families safe.
Several other affected countries, including America and areas of the UK, have shut down schools and universities.
From 9pm on Friday night, only Australian residents and citizens will be allowed to enter. Pictured: Scott Morrison (right) and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg today
Epping Boy’s High School was the first in Australia to shut after a Year 11 student contracted COVID-19 when the local outbreak first began.
Only Australian permanent residents and citizens will be allowed to enter the country after Friday’s deadline.
Why the medical experts say schools MUST stay open
Medical experts have advised the Australian government that for the good of the country, schools must stay open.
– If schools were to close, it would force essential health staff to stay home
– This would lead to 30 per cent drop in healthcare workers
– Children who have caught coronavirus have not done so in schools
– Kids are far more likely to contract it at home or elsewhere
– This means children are safer in school
– Even if kids do get it, they have mild or no symptoms
– It would have dire consequences for the already embattled economy, leaving thousands of workers forced to care for kids
Mr Frydenberg could not confirm how long the ban would be in place, but suggested the borders would be shut for ‘six months or more’.
The restrictions would only be lifted once it is ‘safe to do so’ or when there is a vaccine for COVID-19, he told ABC Radio on Thursday night.
Speaking to Patricia Karvelas on Thursday afternoon, Mr Frydenberg said it would be ‘very hard to avoid’ a recession and a lot of people would likely lose their jobs.
Speaking to the nation on Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison effectively banned all places where 100 people or more meet – including staff.
It may force large bars and restaurants to close their doors across the country, as well as popular attractions such as Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, Melbourne Zoo and theme parks on the Gold Coast.
He warned the drastic measures could be in place for up to six months, as Australia enters war-time measures not seen since the First World War.
Indoor gatherings can have no more than 100 people, and no more than 500 people can attend outdoor gatherings.
Officials are also focusing on trying to prop up the embattled economy.
On Thursday, the RBA slashed interest rates to 0.25 per cent, the lowest in history, with cheap loans being offered to small banks and businesses.
Meanwhile, the central bank announced a $90 billion line of credit to banks with incentives to pass on cheap rates to businesses.
Commonwealth Bank immediately passed on the 1 per cent point rate cut to small businesses and other banks are expected to follow suit.
A long couple enjoy the sun in Melbourne’s Federation Square (pictured) on Wednesday afternoon, usually a bustling area full of tourists and workers alike
Shops in Australia (pictured, a Sydney store on Thursday) are struggling with a lack of customers during the coronavirus pandemic
Australia’s is also starting its first major quantitative easing, which is when the central bank buys up government bonds to encourage lending and investment.
A controversial economic approach, it is designed to make the economy seem stronger and increase the cash supply.
Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe vowed to do ‘whatever is necessary’, after the RBA slashed interest rates to a record low of 0.25 per cent on Thursday.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg echoed the remarks, saying: ‘Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.’
He said the combined $105 billion worth of lending measures show ‘our collective determination to do what it takes to support Australian jobs’.
The central bank also announced a bond buying program, as well as $90 billion in credit which will be offered to small and medium sized businesses.
Businesses across Australia, including this Sydney restaurant (pictured on Thursday) are struggling with a steep decline in customers
The popular Churchills sports bar in Kensington, Sydney (pictured on Wednesday) is one of many venues that has seen a decline in business
The Australian Hotels Association said the restrictions will have a ‘devastating’ impact on pubs, and said it is working close with the federal and state governments.
It represents around 5,000 Australian pubs.
CEO Stephen Ferguson said: ‘Obviously we will be following the instructions of the Government and medical experts to the letter – the number one priority is saving lives and stopping people becoming ill.
‘But there’s no doubt this ban on more than 100 people gathering in venues will have a devastating impact on our workforce of more than 250,000 and will also impact our millions of patrons across Australia.
‘Pubs are a vital part of society and will be key component in Australia’s employment and social recovery once we get through this difficult time.’
LATEST CORONAVIRUS DEVELOPMENTS
- Those in offices, restaurants or other spaces should ensure there is four square metres per person. So a room of 100 square metres should only have 25 people in it.
- All people should keep a minimum of 1.5 metres from other people.
- Schools to remain open.
- NAPLAN testing has been cancelled for 2020.
- From 9pm AEDT Friday, all non-Australian citizens or residents will be banned from entering the country. Direct family members will still be allowed.
- National cabinet will consider on Tuesday further travel restrictions which will apply in the Easter school holidays. But people planning holidays should ‘reconsider any unnecessary travel’.
- Banks have offered to defer loan repayments from small and medium sized businesses for six months, after the Reserve Bank cut interest rates to 0.25 per cent and took other steps to relieve pressure on lenders.
- Banks are also looking at easing pressure on mortgage holders.
- RBA governor Philip Lowe gave a presentation to the prime minister and premiers on Friday.
- The government is still working on a package to help businesses and those who find themselves out of work. The package is expected to be announced on the weekend.
- Federal budget has been delayed until October 6. States will also look at deferring their budgets.
- Government has ‘no plans’ to nationalise major companies that provide key services such as aviation.
- States and territories to nominate specific areas which will be subject to entry restrictions, to minimise the spread into vulnerable communities.
- Some travel exemptions will apply, including for medical treatment, food and medical supplies, mental health and domestic violence support and emergency services.
- States to identify greater protections for commercial and residential tenants. Model rules to apply in hardship cases.
- Rental assistance is expected to flow to people who are forced to move onto welfare payments.
- Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese to meet on Sunday to discuss future sittings of parliament.
- Parliament sits this coming Monday to debate and pass the virus-related economic stimulus package.
- All aged care workers will be tested.
- All health care workers with cold-like symptoms will be tested.
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