Churches, restaurants, gyms, cinemas, pubs, clubs and casinos close under tough new social distancing laws

- March 22, 2020 3 MIN READ
Scott Morrison. Photo: PMO
Pubs, gyms, restaurants, clubs, casinos and even churches will be forced to close from midday on March 23 under increased social distancing rules being implemented by the federal government.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the national closure of a range of indoor venues following a meeting with state and territory leaders on Sunday evening.

Earlier in the afternoon, the NSW and Victorian premiers announced they would shut down “non-essential services” over the next 48 hours, with Victorian schools bringing forward the holiday period by two days to Tuesday, March 24. NS

Schools will remain open under the federal plan, although the PM said parents were free to keep their children at home if they wished.

This list of venues to close includes: licensed clubs, pubs, cinemas, casinos, nightclubs, indoor sporting venues and places of worship. The accommodation areas in pubs can continue to operate Restaurants and cafes can only continue operating as takeaway outlets only.

“This should highlight to all Australians how serious this is,” the PM said.

In good news for small retailers, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison said small business such as hairdressers can continue to operate. Bottle shops will stay open because they are not considered somewhere people congregate. Shopping centres will not close, with Morrison adding there is no reason to for people to hoard groceries.

“We are not putting in place lockdowns,” he said.”

“That is not a measure that has been contemplated at this point. So there is no reason for anyone to do that. There is also no reason for anyone to rush to one of those venues tomorrow before midday.”

The PM and Chief Medical Office Brendan Murphy practice social distancing during Sunday night’s announcement

“On the weekend, what we saw was a disregard of those social distancing practices. As people turned up to the beach in large numbers, crammed venues in our major cities,” Morrison said.

And while the new rules will be reviewed on a monthly basis, the PM warned that “once you start putting these sorts of arrangements in place we should have the expectation that they will remain in place for at least six months”.

“These are very significant measures. And they are done regrettably because it will mean, for many people, that the places at which they go to work, they will be unable to do that in the way they were before,” he said.
Morrison said the measures are “stage 1” with the potential for even tougher, albeit as yet undetermined “stage 2” measures introduced if Australians failed to adhere to the social distancing measures.

Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said young people had to remember that their actions had potentially deadly consequences for older people.

“Most young people don’t get the significance of this disease. But as a young person you don’t want to be responsible for the severe and possibly fatal disease of an elder, vulnerable Australian. We have to stop the rapid spread of this virus,” he said.

Murphy again rebuffed concerns about schools remaining open saying the state and territory CMOs agreed unanimously that they should stay open because the coronavirus risk for children “is extremely low”.

“We’ve had hardly any cases in children in primary school children and the international experience is that it is a very, very low risk of symptomatic infection. We don’t know whether children may be transmitters,” he said.

“There is no data internationally anywhere in the world that shows that major spreading of this virus has occurred with children. We are not ruling it out, it is possible, but we think the risks and benefits are on the other side.”

Here is what the Australian government said in its release:

The following facilities will be restricted from opening from midday local time 23 March 2020:

  • Pubs, registered and licenced clubs (excluding bottle shops attached to these venues), hotels (excluding accommodation)
  • Gyms and indoor sporting venues
  • Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos, and night clubs
  • Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery
  • Religious gatherings, places of worship or funerals (in enclosed spaces and other than very small groups and where the 1 person per 4 square metre rule applies).

Isolated remote community hubs are not included in these restrictions.

Other facilities are not impacted, but will be considered under stage 2 restrictions, if necessary.

These measures also apply to outdoor spaces associated with the above venues.


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