Biosecurity emergency declared in Australia, travel advice at Level Four, do not travel
18 March 2020,
Speaking at a press conference in Canberra this morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a new gathering ban and enforced the toughest travel restrictions in the country's history.
It comes as the Government declares the pandemic a biosecurity emergency under the Biosecurity Act by the Governer General.
The Federal Government has placed a ban on non-essential gatherings of persons 100 or greater in indoor areas effective today.
In outdoor areas the advice remains as it was announced on Friday at 500 people.
Essential gatherings include: airports, public transportation & public transportation facilities, medical facilities, aged care facilities, correctional facilities, courts or tribunals, grocery stores, office buildings, factories, construction sites, schools, universities, hotels, motels, mining camps, and other places where people are transiting.
Food markets are exempt from the 500-person limit, however they must undertake additional measures,such as control of patronage level numbers or stall density reduction to decrease the risk of Covid-19 transmission.
Additionally, the Government has upgraded travel advice for Australians looking to leave the country to Level Four.
This is the first time travel advice has reached this level in Australia's history.
"The message to Australians is do not travel abroad," says the Prime Minister.
"Do not go overseas. That is an indefinite ban."
The Government recommends all Australians who are overseas to return as soon as possible by commercial means.
Regarding domestic travel the PM says flying interstate is low risk at this point in time.
"We have not seen evidence of people contracting this virus on aircraft. The issue is not people being on planes, it is on people moving around the country," says the Prime Minister.
As for schools, the PM says he has received health advice that they stay open for the time being.
'As a father I am happy for my kids to go to school. There's only one reason they shouldn't be going to school and that is if they are unwell," says the PM.
"Whatever we do we've got to do for at least six months."
"That means the disruption that would occur from the schools closing would be severe."
The Prime Minister also lambasted those who have been panic buying groceries and hoarding essential items, dubbing the practice as 'Un-Australian'.
"Stop hoarding, I can't be more blunt about it," said the Prime Minister.
"I have got to say it is one of the most disappointing things I have seen in response to this crisis. It's ridiculous, it's Un-Australian and it must stop."
As for a rumoured second stimulus package, the Prime Minister says the Australian Governor is considering further economic measures. The details are still being worked on and will be announced once properly designed.
The PM has also announced an aviation package for the refunding and ongoing waiving of a range Government charges on the industry including aviation fuel excise, Airservices charges on domestic airline operations and domestic and regional aviation security charges.
The total cost of the measures are estimated to be $715 million, with an upfront estimated benefit of $159 million to our airlines for reimbursement of applicable charges paid by domestic airlines since 1 February 2020.
There are now 470 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Australia.
France in lockdown
France, which on March 6 only had slightly more recorded cases of the virus than Australia has now, enacted bans on all non-essential outings overnight with penalties of up to 135 euros (AUD$247).
French President Emmanuel Macron promised to guarantee 300 billion euros (AUD$550 billion) worth of loans to businesses, in addition to the suspension of rent and utility payments.
"No French company, whatever its size, will be exposed to the risk of collapse," Macron said.
The French Government will also help health sector workers by paying for their hotels, taxis and childcare during the outbreak.
Updated at 9:31am AEDT on 18 March 2020.