Earlier this month Australia’s first national cabinet, a cabinet composed of every state and territory leader, was formed to coordinate a consistent response to the threat of coronavirus.
Last night, in a press conference following the cabinet’s second meeting, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced drastic new measures to contain the spread of the virus. From midday today all pubs, bars, nightclubs, cinemas, casinos, indoor sporting venues, entertainment venues and places of worship (i.e. churches and mosques) will be closed nationwide. Restaurants and cafes will be allowed to continue operating, though only on a takeaway basis. Bottle shops and hotels will remain open and operate as normal. Likewise, home delivery services will be unaffected.
“I want to stress, this is stage one of this response,” Morrison said. “[The restrictions] will be reviewed on a monthly basis.”
The prime minister was careful to emphasise the measures won't be lifted any time soon.
“Once you start putting these sorts of arrangements in place, you should have the expectation that they will remain in place for at least six months,” he said. “I wouldn’t want anyone to get the impression that these arrangements are things that will be in place for a couple of weeks or a month.”
Throughout this week, and in the press conference itself, the prime minister repeatedly expressed his disappointment at the Australian public’s inability to heed social distancing guidelines. These new restrictions are a response to this inaction.
“When we all don’t do the right thing, it has real implications for others,” he said.
More than 700,000 Australians work in hospitality, although this figure includes receptionists, hotel managers and other positions unaffected by the new restrictions.
“I’m deeply regretful that those workers and those business owners who will be impacted by this decision will suffer the economic hardship that undoubtedly, they will now have to face,” Morrison said.
This story was updated at 9.20am on March 23.