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Everything announced at Wednesday's coronavirus presser, including restrictions on aged care visits and a further ban on mass gatherings

James Hennessy
  • Scott Morrison announced a number of new measures in Wednesday morning's coronavirus update.
  • These include an unprecedented upgrade in Australia's travel advisory, a ban on large indoor gatherings, and restrictions on visitation to aged care facilities.
  • Here's everything you need to know.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia's homepage for more stories.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison gave an update on Australia's response to the unfolding coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday morning, announcing a slew of new measures to help slow the spread of the virus and ensure the nation's health infrastructure is capable of handling the virus.

“We are going to keep Australia running," Morrison said. "We are going to keep Australia functioning. It won’t look like it normally does."

Indicating the current situation could last longer than six months, Morrison announced a series of new policies to minimise the impact of COVID-19 on Australia's society and economy.

Here's everything that was announced:

An increase in the travel advisory to level four for all overseas destinations

A blanket "do not travel" advisory has been issued for those considering travel to any other part of the world – a clear direction for Australians not to leave the country.

“Do not go overseas - that is a very clear instruction,” Morrison said. “For those of you thinking about going overseas for the school holidays, don’t. Don’t go overseas.”

It follows news Virgin would suspend all international flights for two months, and Qantas reducing its international flight capacity by 90%.

Domestic travel is not subject to restrictions, as air travel itself is considered low-risk.

Restrictions on "non-essential" indoor gatherings of 100 people or more

The existing ban on non-essential gatherings of 500 people or more has been extended to cover indoor gatherings of 100 or more.

A number of events and gatherings deemed essential, including parliament and a range of workplaces, are excluded from this ban.

It will likely cause issues for restaurants, pubs and cinemas, which are already facing down the barrel of significant cashflow problems due to social distancing measures. Events like weddings and funerals are also likely to be affected.

An instruction to 'stop' hoarding

Those who have spent any amount of time in a supermarket over the past month would have seen shelves picked clean by panic buying.

In his address, Scott Morrison implored those who were buying more than they needed to stop doing so.

“Stop hoarding,” Morrison said. “I can’t be more blunt about it. Stop it."

It's unclear at this point how much of the supply problems at stores like Coles and Woolworths has actually been caused by a small number of hoarders, as opposed to evenly distributed demand spikes as people stock up on essentials.

Both supermarkets today announced further purchase restrictions, with one- and two-item limits implemented on a variety of products.

New restrictions on visitation to aged care facilities

Anyone who has been overseas or in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 within 14 days will not be allowed to visit aged care homes or facilities.

Residents of such homes will only be able to take one visitor per day, with a maximum of two people visiting.

End-of-life visits may be an exception to the above rules, but this will be handled on a per-institution basis with a view toward minimising possible exposure to the coronavirus.

Schools will remain open

The prime minister said schools would remain open, based on "clear" advice from his advisors. The decision was made on the basis of how prolonged the coronavirus crisis was likely to be, and an intention to minimise economic and educational disruption.

”Please know this – whatever we do, we have to do for at least six months," Morrison said. “The disruption that would occur from the closure of schools around this country, make no mistake, would be severe.”

Many countries and jurisdictions have closed schools in an attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus through any vector possible. Singapore, which has had success in slowing coronavirus transmission, has kept schools open – and it is the example Morrison is leaning on.

However, the prime minister said any student who appears ill should stay home, and that parents should proactively make that decision.

No lockdown for Australia

Following Health Minister Greg Hunt's repudiation of online rumours that a country-wide lockdown was imminent, Scott Morrison went further in denying such an action was being strongly considered.

"There is no reason for people to be hoarding supplies in fear of a lockdown or anything like this," he said.

He criticised the "ridiculous" stuff circulating online about a lockdown, and said doing so would be devastating to the Australian economy.

Work restrictions on 20,000 student nurses have been lifted

20,00 student nurses will be able to work in the healthcare sector, to support the growing pressure on the sector as the virus continues to spread.

Social distancing to continue and escalate

Australians are being urged to maintain social distancing measures on an ongoing basis.

"No more hand-shaking, no more hugging, except in your family," said Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy. "You can do that in your family because you're already close to your family."

"No more scant attention to hand hygiene. Wash your hands all the time. Use hand sanitiser and just practice sensible practices."