More restrictions to fight COVID-19

INDOOR public gatherings of more than 100 people will be banned under changes made to the State of Emergency by the state government and restrictions will be placed on aged care facilities in Victoria, following agreement by the National Cabinet.

The new measures are in addition to the banning of mass outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people and the 14-day isolation of travellers coming to Australia that are already in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.

There are 121 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Victoria and 464 confirmed cases nationally.

The new restrictions for indoor venues come into effect at 5pm on Wednesday and will mean that any gathering at venues like restaurants, pubs, or cinemas that have more than 100 people can’t occur. There are exceptions outlined in the directions, including places like supermarkets and public transport.

From now, across Australia, visits to aged care residents will only be allowed for a short duration and by a maximum of two people per day, except for palliative care. This recognises that elderly people are particularly vulnerable to this virus.

Children under the age of 16 will only be permitted to attend aged care facilities in exceptional circumstances and further guidelines will be provided to aged care staff around hygiene practices. These directions will be enforced by the federal government, which administers this sector.

Venues that don’t comply with these new directions on mass gatherings face fines of up to $100,000. People who don’t comply face fines of up to $20,000.

The National Cabinet, comprising Prime Minister Scott Morrison, state premiers and territory chief ministers, has agreed to additional cleaning on public transport, which is already being implemented in Victoria, and is urging employers to consider staggered work times and remote working arrangements to reduce overcrowding at peak travel times.

The public is advised to sit in the back of taxis and ride shares, while mass transport should be avoided by people vulnerable to the virus, including the elderly.

It was also agreed to cancel Anzac Day events, while acknowledging that due to the day’s importance there can be formalities but no crowds.

The advice to National Cabinet as it relates to schools, childcare centres, and universities has not changed and they will remain open at this time.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said the National Cabinet was united in doing everything it could to slow the spread of this virus and protect the lives of Australians.

“These measures are unprecedented in our lifetimes, but they are necessary to combat this pandemic and flatten the curve so our health system is not overwhelmed,” he said.

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the decisions were guided by the best medical advice.

“We know that these decisions are difficult and confronting for people, but they are also necessary to fight the pandemic,” she said.