• A health care worker holds a face mask. (Sipa USA Florent Rols / SOPA Images/Sipa)Source: Sipa USA Florent Rols / SOPA Images/Sipa
Events cancelled, exclusive shopping hours for the elderly, self-quarantine on international travellers, and bans on travel to remote communities - this is where Australia is at with COVID-19.
Keira Jenkins

16 Mar 2020 - 12:43 PM  UPDATED 16 Mar 2020 - 12:48 PM

Victoria and the ACT have declared a state of emergency over Coronavirus.

The state of emergency powers, under the Health and Wellbeing Act, have never been used before but will allow authorities to enforce a 14-day isolation period for travellers coming into Australia.

The 14-day isolation period for international travellers was announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday.

Victoria's state of emergency will last for four weeks initially, but Premier Daniel Andrews said it is likely to be extended beyond that period.

Shortly after Victoria's announcement, it was reported that ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr would also declare a state of emergency.

'Ensuring safety'

In the Northern Territory, the Northern Land Council (NLC) has suspended all non-essential permits and will not issue any new non-essential travel permits in a bid to protect remote communities from COVID-19.

NLC CEO Marion Scrymgour said all non-essential travel to remote communites should be avoided but the ban will not affect essential services for community-members.

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"“The NLC has received many calls from community members asking that we do all we can to ensure the safety and protection of Aboriginal people in their communities who are very concerned about the spread of COVID-19," she said.

“To be clear, this decision will not affect the permits issued to those people - the doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers, council workers and others – that provide essential services for Aboriginal people out bush."

Dedicated shopping hour

Woolworths supermarkets around the country are also making provisions for some of the most vulnerable people in the community - the elderly and people with disabilities - who will be able to access a dedicated shopping hour before normal store hours.

The decision comes after panic buying due to COVID-19 has stripped the shelves at many grocery stores. 

Concession cardholders will have exclusive access to Woolworths from Tuesday between 7-8am before other shoppers can enter the store at 8am.

Woolworths  managing director Claire Peters said the dedicated shopping hour aims to support the needs of the elderly and people with disabilities who have been missing out on essential items as a result of panic-buying.

“While we’ll continue to do our very best to restock our stores during this period of unprecedented demand, we know many of our elderly customers have been missing out on essential items when they shop,” she said.

"This temporary measure will give them, and those with a disability, the opportunity to shop before ​our stores officially open, helping them obtain the ​essential ​items they need most in a less crowded environment.”

“We continue to encourage all Australians to be mindful of those in our communities who might need extra help at this time.”

Events cancelled

The Federal Government has also banned non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people. The Prime Minister also announced a ban on cruise ships arriving in Australia, and any travellers arriving by plane will have to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Schools, universities, workplaces and public transport are among the kinds of 'gatherings' exempt from these bans.

But across the country a number of major events have been cancelled or closed to spectators over fear of spreading Coronavirus.

Cancelled events include Sydney's Vivid Festival and Royal Easter Show, Melbourne's International Comedy Festival, and Fashion Festival and Tasmania's Dark Mofo Festival.

Download Festival in Sydney and Melbourne have also been cancelled along with St Patrick's Day festivities in Adelaide, Perth, Sydney and Brisbane.

NRL games will go ahead but without spectators, the AFL and ALFW is on hold and so is the Super Rugby.

There are still questions over whether ANZAC Day services and marches will still go ahead.

Schools are remaining open but some parents, teachers and students are calling for their closure, with some parents keeping children home from school.

Schools are implementing 'social distancing' measures such as cancelling excursions and assemblies to limit large-scale interactions.

While at the Crown Casino in Melbourne, social distancing measures are also being implemented, with every second pokie machine and gaming table being 'deactivated', which Crown said will distance players to stop the spread of the virus at the venue.

The death toll from COVID-19 jumped to five over the weekend in Australia, with the death of two elderly women in Sydney.

Australia has recorded almost 300 cases of the virus so far, with NSW - the hardest-hit state - recording 134 cases.

Coronavirus symptoms can range from mild illness to pneumonia, according to the Federal Government's website, and can include a fever, coughing, sore throat, fatigue and shortness of breath.

People who believe they may have contracted the virus are advised to call their doctor before visiting or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.


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