PM announces stricter social gathering rules deemed ‘heartbreaking’

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Australians woke this morning to strict new regulations that effectively prevent them from attending weddings, funerals and family barbecues – among other rules that will come into effect at midnight Wednesday.

Workers have been urged to do so from home. Children’s parties and dinner parties are to be cancelled.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says even visits with family “should be kept to a minimum and with very small numbers of guests”.

“We don’t want to be overly specific about that; we want Australians to exercise their common sense,” he said.

“Going out for the basics, going out for exercise, perhaps with your partner or family members provided it’s a small group – that’s fine.

“Barbecues of lots of friends or even extended family coming together to celebrate one-year-old birthday parties and all these sorts of things – we can’t do those things now.

“If you’re gathering together in a group, say 10 people, outside together in a group, that’s not okay.”

Under the new rules, weddings can continue but can only be attended by five people – the couple, a celebrant and two witnesses. Funerals can also only have a maximum of 10 mourners.

The PM said that the states were considering making it a criminal offence to host a house party.

“You should only go outside your home to go to those essential things I talked about, not to go and congregate in groups,” he said.

“If we do all these things then we are going to be able to put greater pressure on slowing the rate of the spread of this virus.”

Australians will also be banned from travelling overseas, with the “do not travel” warning issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade turning into a total ban as of Wednesday.

From midnight Wednesday, a slew of activities and businesses will no longer be allowed to continue, including:

  • community and recreation centres, health clubs, fitness centres, yoga, barre, spin facilities, saunas, wellness centres
  • amusement parks and arcades
  • indoor and outdoor play centres
  • public swimming pools
  • galleries, museums, national institutions, historic sites, libraries, community centres
  • auction houses
  • real estate auctions and open house inspections
  • in-store beauty therapy, tanning, waxing, nail salons and tattoo parlours, spa and massage parlours (excluding allied-health-related services)
  • food courts within shopping centres will only be able to sell takeaway, but shopping centres themselves will remain open.

Hairdressers and barber shops can stay open, but a customer must not be on the premises longer than 30 minutes. Personal training sessions and boot camps are limited to 10 people. And operation of outdoor and indoor food markets will be addressed by the states and territories.

The new laws come as the number of coronavirus cases in Australia doubled in the past three days. 

A total lockdown of all non-essential services is being considered as of Sunday, says Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy.

“But the idea that you can put measures in place for four weeks and suddenly stop them and the virus will be gone is not credible,” he said. 

“So, we are very keen to put as restrictive measures in place without completely destroying life as we know it. 

“Make no mistake, if there is widespread community transmission, we may have to introduce some harder measures.”

Mr Morrison, who acknowledged the new rules “will be very difficult” said the new measures reflected the gravity of the issue faced by Australians to limit the spread of COVID-19 and its potential to wreak havoc on the health system. 

“This is not an easy decision,” he said. 

“Some of the events that have been some of the major transmitting events, it has been exactly these types of events, particularly weddings.

“And that is why, regretfully, we have to be able to put these arrangements in place.”

Mr Morrison also said every worker in Australia would be considered “essential”.

“Everyone who has a job in this economy is an essential worker. Every single job that is being done in our economy with these severe restrictions that are taking place is essential,” he said.

“It can be essential in a service whether it’s a nurse or a doctor or a schoolteacher, or a public servant who is working tonight to ensure that we can get even greater capacity in our Centrelink offices, working until eight o’clock under the new arrangement in the call centres, these are all essential jobs.

“People stacking shelves, that is essential. People earning money in their family when another member of their family may have lost their job and can no longer earn, that’s an essential job. Jobs are essential.”

He also reiterated that relief would be provided to people who may not be able to pay their rent or if power bills could not be paid on time.

Mr Morrison said 2020 would be the “toughest year” of many people’s lives and one of the most “heart-breaking events” in the nation’s history.

“We are not unconscious of the real impact these measures are having on the lives of daily Australians so we will continue to do everything we can,” he said.

“We know it is a massive change to our lives but if we do it, and we do it consistently, and we do it patiently and understandingly, then we will get through this,” he said.

What do you think of the new changes?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?



Total Comments: 56
  1. 0

    These rules should be announced a lot earlier! This is to ensure everyone’s safety, so that there are less funerals.

  2. 0

    So I am banned from my trip to the UK in May now. Utter madness.

    • 0

      The UK may well still be in lock-down, so they won’t let you in anyway. Where is the madness? Most of the infections have come from people travelling from country to country.

      Your whinge is pretty selfish when people are dying from this disease, and all you have to do is stay home. Hope none of you or your loved ones get a serious dose as they might well die.

    • 0

      My brother was due here on Friday from the UK. . Looking forward to it for over a year. We’re both in our 70s and he’s had to cancel. Fingers crossed for 2021.

    • 0

      Seriously? Have you seen the state the UK is in? The NHS will be overwhelmed very shortly, – you wouldn’t even be allowed outside. And the numbers of infected there are probably many more than reported because they haven’t been testing as ardently as has been the case in Australia. Be grateful for where you are. And if you aren’t convinced and want to scare the daylights out of yourself get onto the John Hopkins Coronavirus site and keep an eye on the progress of the disease.

    • 0

      Australians really don’t get it. Bergamo, Italy holds a burial or cremation every 30 minutes – no family present. We voluntarily quarantined ourselves (in France) starting one month ago. We shall continue like that until a vaccine is available. That is the new lifestyle. Meanwhile save your pity for India, Africa and South America.

  3. 0

    Just do it!
    Stay home.

  4. 0

    We need to be as hard on cruise ships as boat people. There are contaminated people spreading the virus on purpose too.
    The best thing to do is stay home.

    Our real heroes are supermarket workers, delivery drivers, and hospital cleaners. All risking their lives for us and rewarded with abuse and low pays.

    Coronavirus is a lesson for everyone to change their values. It’s giving mother nature are chance to heal.

  5. 0

    My grandson’s 5th birthday was on Monday. Most people didn’t attend. I would rather err on the side of caution. I would have liked these restrictions to come in sooner.

  6. 0

    Why on earth anyone would want to travel to the other side of the world in these difficult times beggars belief,

  7. 0

    Many people have cancelled insterstae and overseas trips. The government is just erring on side of caution when it come to gatherings, The less people who are affected the better The government adheres to advice from medical experts.This is a dreadful virus and must be nipped in the bud. Jus heard that only essential elective surgery will take place now to free up resources in public and private hospitals to help the medical staff deal coronavirus patients. Sensible precautions

  8. 0

    Many people have cancelled insterstae and overseas trips. The government is just erring on side of caution when it come to gatherings, The less people who are affected the better The government adheres to advice from medical experts.This is a dreadful virus and must be nipped in the bud. Jus heard that only essential elective surgery will take place now to free up resources in public and private hospitals to help the medical staff deal coronavirus patients. Sensible precautions

  9. 0

    What a ridiculous and irresponsible headline!
    It is “heartbreaking” when people die from this virus due to unnecessary exposure. Weddings can be postponed. Funeral services can be posted on Facebook for everyone to see. People need to get their priorities right. This is literally a life and death situation so missing a family barbecue can hardly be described as “heartbreaking”. Poor journalism in this current public health crisis.

  10. 0

    Has anyone else noticed that we are the only country in the world where individual masks are not being used as a major precaution. Slo Mo claimed masks are of no use, then why is every other country using them ? Why ,in china were they chaining people together who were caught in the streets without one, yet here they are telling us they are of no use ??
    Could it be that the government missed the boat and didn’t buy enough and there simply aren’t any

    • 0

      When I arrived to have the 65+ flu injection at the doctor’s surgery the receptionists told me to wear a face mask.

      I told her that I haven’t got one on me because no one advised me about it when I made the appointment. I advised them to inform everyone about the mask policy before they arrive.

      They told me to grab a tissue from the desk and put it across my face.

      I was seated amongst the other tissue wearing patients in the waiting room. There was a gentleman seated in front of me coughing and spluttering everywhere and blowing his nose.

      None of the staff offered to move him into another room. Instead, he was left there to contaminate.

    • 0

      The masks you commonly see people wearing are of very little use if you are not sick. They are poorly fitting, do not filter the air and would not stop you inhaling the virus. Also any usefulness is gone after about 20 minutes.

      However, if you are actually sick, wearing these masks may help protect others from you but again, they are used for far too long and are so poorly fitting that the true effect is minimal.

    • 0

      KSS isn’t that half the problem, do we try to protect others or just worry about ourselves, in true Australian fashion.
      The fact is where are they , why hasn’t this government got their arse into gear like the rest of the world.
      Why are we fast becoming a third world country, re-active rather than pro -active
      If the rest of the world have them why is this government such poor managers of all they rule

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