Australia

Federal Government orders Australians not to travel overseas and bans indoor gatherings of 100 people or more

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has advised Australians not to travel overseas. Source: AAP

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a ban on indoor gatherings of 100 people or more and told Australians don't go overseas.

The Federal Government has banned non-essential indoor gatherings of 100 people or more and ordered Australians not to travel overseas due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Wednesday strict new measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, including a travel warning for the entire world. 

"Do not go overseas. That is very clear instruction. For those who are thinking of going overseas in the school holidays, don't. Don't go overseas."

Mr Morrison said it was the first time in the nation's history that this mandate had been issued. 

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The government has also increased restrictions on non-essential gatherings, limiting them to 100 or less.

Outdoor gatherings of 500 people or more have been forbidden since Monday.

However, the restrictions do not apply to schools, public transport and essential workplaces such as medical and health services. 

As the national cabinet considers more economic measures to shield the economy, Mr Morrison said it was important to keep Australians working, in order to provide essential services and keep the economy afloat. 

It is critical Australia "can keep functioning and importantly, keep delivering the important services that are necessary which, at the end of the day, mean that we can support the most vulnerable in our community who are most at risk from the effects of the coronavirus", he said.

At work, at school and on public transport, Australians are urged to practice social distancing, remaining at least 1.5 metres apart from the nearest person. 

Mr Morrison said on Wednesday schools would remain open, mainly because children were less severely affected by the coronavirus. But he urged parents to keep their children at home if they showed any sign of being unwell.

The Federal Government has ordered Australians not to travel for the first time in the nation's history.
The Federal Government has ordered Australians not to travel for the first time in the nation's history.
AAP

He said the government was preparing for the impact of the pandemic to last six months or more. 

"We are going to keep Australia running. We are going to keep Australia functioning. It won't look like it normally does but it is very important that we continue to put in place measures that are scalable and sustainable.

"There is no two-week answer to what we're confronting. There is no short-term, quick fix to how this is dealt with in Australia. The idea that you can just turn everything off for two weeks and then turn it all back on again and it all goes away, that is not the evidence, that is not the facts, that is not the information and it is not our way through this."

The Federal Government has warned the economic downturn from the outbreak will see Australians lose their jobs and businesses close down. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House.
AAP

The hospitality, tourism and event sectors are predicted to be those worst hit as social distancing measures are intensified to curb the virus's spread.   

But Mr Morrison downplayed the possibility of any immediate mass lockouts. 

"There is no way that we can lock down society and make everyone stay home and then in a month's time, undo that, because the virus will just flare up again."

Labor leader Anthony Albanese has pledged his support for efforts to contain the pandemic, saying he wants "to help the Government get it right".

"There is an urgency here ... on the health aspects to keep people safe, on the economic aspects arising from this health emergency," he said. 

"We know that the sooner the response, the more effective it will be and the less the cost will be in the long run."

Labor's health spokesperson Chris Bowen has even pushed for the Australian Defence Force to be deployed, "where appropriate", to help open fever clinics.

"This is a national emergency and it needs all the resources of the country applied to it." 

Mr Morrison also urged calm around the coronavirus, saying for most Australians "blessed with good health and in good condition ... this is a mild condition".

"It is important that we, who are healthy, those of us who will contract this and have experience of a mild illness, that we do what we can to limit the spread to ensure that those who are more vulnerable are not affected," he said.

"If we slow the spread, we do save lives and that is very much the strategy the Governments of Australia are following as we move through the crisis."

As of Tuesday afternoon, only people who have recently travelled from overseas or have been in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case and experienced symptoms within 14 days are advised to be tested.
 
If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor, don’t visit, or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.
 
If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

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