Prime Minister Scott Morrison has declared a biosecurity emergency and Level 4 travel warnings for the first time in Australia’s history during his speech to address the coronavirus crisis.
Here is an outline of this morning’s speech.
“Life is changing in Australia, as it is changing all around the world. Life is going to continue to change, as we deal with the global coronavirus.
“This is a once in 100 year type event. We haven’t seen this sort of thing in Australia since the end of the First World War. But together, we are up to this challenge. All Australians, governments, health workers, teachers, nurses, journalists, broadcasters, mums, dads, kids, grandparents, aged care workers, we’re all up to this. We’re all able to deal with this.
“But we just need to continue to keep our heads focusing on the right information, making good decisions, helping and supporting each other each and every day to make the changes that are very necessary, as we deal with this very real situation. We are going to keep Australia running.
“We are going to keep Australia functioning. It won’t look like it normally does, but it is very important that we continue to put in place measures that are scalable and sustainable. There is no two-week answer to what we’re confronting.
“There is no short-term, quick fix to how this is dealt with in Australia. 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, that is not the facts, that is not the information and it is not our way through this.
“It is not what you see in the measures that we have already announced and the measures that we will continue to announce. They need to be scalable and they need to be sustainable.”
Historic travel bans
Australians have been told ‘do not travel’ anywhere in the world. The level four global ban is an Australian first.
“That is the first time that has ever happened in Australia’s history,” said Mr Morrison.
“For those who are thinking of going overseas in the school holidays, don’t. Don’t go overseas. The biggest risk we have had and the biggest incidents of cases we have had has been from Australians returning from overseas, from many countries that you wouldn’t have expected that to be a source.”
Non-essential gatherings over 100 banned
This applies to gatherings of 100 people in indoor areas and 500 in outdoor areas, including bars, restaurants, clubs, pubs and nightclubs. There’s no exception for churches, mosques or synagogues.
“That is effective now, as of today and those arrangements, in terms of the legal enforcement of those measures, are being put in place by the states and territories,” said Mr Morrison.
“To define what is a non-essential gathering, there is a baseline that has been established among the national cabinet which reflected in a lot of the legislation that was put in in relation to the outdoor ban and that is an airport, public transportation, which includes public transportation facilities, such as stations, platforms, stops, trains, trams, buses, these are essential,” said Mr Morrison.
“Medical and health service facilities, emergency service facilities, disability or aged care facilities. Correctional facilities, youth justice centres or other places of custody, courts or tribunals. Parliaments, food market, supermarket, grocery store, retail store, shopping centre that is necessary for the normal business of those premises. Office buildings, factories, construction sites, mining sites, necessary for their normal operation.”
According to news.com.au, the PM did not specify how the ban would be applied, but some reports suggest guidance such as one person for every four square metres.
Schools to remain open, for now
The PM says health advisers believe schools should stay open.
“Interestingly, this is also what Singapore has done,” he said.
“Singapore has been one of the more successful countries. In Singapore, the schools are open. [There is] only one reason your kids shouldn’t be going to school and that is if they are unwell.
“Don’t leave it to the teacher to work that out when they arrive, or the school administrator or whoever is on drop-off. Make sure, if your child is unwell, that you are taking action to keep your child out of school.”
Economic reasons also need to be considered, says Mr Morrison, as “whatever we do we have to do for at least six months”, which would mean major disruption and “tens of thousands of jobs” lost.
Aged care visits restricted
Visits to aged care facilities are being severely restricted, including bans for staff and visitors who have returned from overseas in the last 14 days, anyone with fever or symptoms of acute respiratory infection, and those who haven’t had a flu vaccination after 1 May 2019.
“I know this could be very difficult for families,” Mr Morrison said.
Children under the age of 16 should be visiting “only by exception”, and visits will be limited to a maximum of two people at one time.
“These may be immediate social supports, family members, close friends or professional service or advocacy workers,” said Mr Morrison.
“Visits should be conducted in a resident’s room, outdoors or in a specific area designated by the facility, rather than communal areas where the risk of transmission to other residents is greater. There should be no large group visits or gatherings.”
On bulk purchasing of goods
“On bulk purchasing of supplies: Stop hoarding. I can’t be more blunt about it. Stop it. It is not sensible, it is not helpful and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis.
“That is not who we are as a people. It is not necessary. It is not something that people should be doing. What it does is it is distracting attention and efforts that need to be going into other measures, to be focusing on how we maintain supply chains into these shopping centres.
“There is no reason for people to be hoarding supplies in fear of a lock down or anything like this. As I have said, we’re putting in place scalable and sustainable measures.
“I am seeking Australia’s common-sense cooperation with these very clear advisory positions. Stop doing it. It’s ridiculous! It’s unAustralian, and it must stop, and I would ask people to do the right thing by each other in getting a handle on these sorts of practices.
“Also: Do not abuse staff. We’re all in this together. People are doing their jobs. They’re doing their best. Whether they’re at a testing clinic this morning. Whether they’re at a shopping centre. Whether they’re at a bank, a train station, everybody is doing their best. So let’s just support each other in the work that they are doing.”
On a new stimulus package for business
“We are not delaying,” he said.
“We are moving with great haste on this. But we’re doing it carefully to ensure that we get the design of the measures right so they can be implemented as quickly as possible and provide that support.”
On the PM not being tested
“The Cabinet is following the same rules as every other Australian,” he said.
“Last night, I had a medical check-up, and my health has been checked on a regular basis by one of the doctors here. And that involves the normal things that you’d expect, and if I’m advised by my doctor to get a test, then I will. What I’m saying is that there can’t be one rule for me and another rule for the rest of the country. Testing equipment is an important resource, and I’ll follow the rules like everybody else.”
On locking down society
“It does not achieve anything,” said chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy.
“We have to be in this for the long haul. As the Prime Minister said, it could be six months or more that we have to practise these new ways of interacting. So therefore, our measures have to be sustainable. There is no way that we can lock down society and make everyone stay home and then in a month’s time, undo that, because the virus will just flare up again without any real long-term benefit.”
Prof. Murphy says the growth in cases is “concerning” but they are still mostly imported from overseas.
“We would be more concerned if the increases were more community transmission, but even with imported cases, that presents opportunities for further community transmission, and we are concerned in getting on top of it,” he said.
“There is no need for us to be in a state of heightened anxiety, but we do need to be prepared and we all need to practise this social distancing.”
If you suspect you or a family member has coronavirus you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.
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