PM announces even stricter social gathering restrictions amid coronavirus outbreak

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced more stringent restrictions on Australians as well as a ban on all overseas travel as the nation continues to battle the COVID-19 outbreak.

Mr Morrison said in a press conference late on Tuesday night that he would be adding to the list of activities banned under his government’s social distancing measures.

He said personal beauty therapies including tattoo artists as well as tanning, waxing and nail salons would be shut from midnight on Wednesday.

He also said amusement parks, arcades and both indoor and outdoor play centres will be closed and funerals will no longer be able to have more than 10 people in attendance, while weddings will only have a maximum of five guests.

Mr Morrison appeared to suggest shopping centres would close, but later clarified he meant shopping centre food courts. However, those food courts will still be able to provide a takeaway service.

Auction houses, galleries, swimming pools and libraries will also be shut.

He said all open house inspections and real estate auctions should now be cancelled.

“These will be significant sacrifices, I know,” he told reporters.

He said gathering at community and recreation centres, health clubs, fitness centres and yoga classes would all now be banned.

Anyone looking to do an outdoor bootcamp or work with a personal trainer will still be able to do so, Mr Morrison said, however only in groups of 10 or less.

“Outdoors, do not congregate together in groups,” Mr Morrison said.

Scott Morrison is pictured.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced more restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19. Source: AAP

“Now, the medical experts panel have made suggestions about how that can be managed. It's very difficult to put a number on it.

“But the point about it is this: If you're gathering together in a group, say, 10 people, together, outside in a group, that's not OK. We've got to move people on.”

While personal beauty therapies won’t be permitted for the foreseeable future, Mr Morrison said barbers and hairdressers will remain open.

“On top of that, to restrict the amount of time a patron is in the premise to no more than 30 minutes and preferably less,” he said.

Mr Morrison acknowledged the impact that measures were having on everyday Australians.

“We will continue to do everything we can, both as a federal government and at state government and territory governments around the country, to do all we can to support our people through what is going to be an incredibly difficult time.”

New restrictions to be brought in from midnight Wednesday

  • Real estate auctions and open house inspections.

  • Outdoor and indoor markets are banned subject to rules from states and territories.

  • Tattoo parlours, waxing, tanning and nail salons.

  • Hairdressers and barbers can continue but must strictly manage social distancing and restrict appointments to 30 minutes.

  • No more than five people at weddings.

  • No more than 10 at funerals.

  • Amusement parks and arcades, and indoor and outdoor play centres must close.

  • Auction houses.

  • Community and recreation centres, health clubs, fitness centres and yoga and barre classes.

  • Boot camps and personal training must be limited to 10 people.

  • Galleries, museums, libraries and swimming pools must close.

Australians are banned from travelling overseas

Mr Morrison said Smart Traveller previously had a do not travel warning.

That’s now been updated to a ban.

“Using the biosecurity powers that were afforded to us by the Governor-General through the Minister for Health, now, the numbers of Australians going overseas has reduced dramatically,” Mr Morrison said.

Police walk through Sydney Airport.
Australians will no longer be able to travel overseas for the foreseeable future. Source: AAP

“There will be exceptions to these rules which will be set out in the directive that will be provided. But this would include people involved in aid work in the Pacific and the support we're providing.”

He added exceptions might involve “compassionate travel” or “essential travel” for employment.

“But the number of people and the number who are leaving Australia now is very, very low,” Mr Morrison said.

What do the new restrictions mean for schools?

Mr Morrison said the medical advice for school has not changed.

“It is safe to send your children to school,” he said.

“Tomorrow, I'll be meeting, and there has been discussions today between the Education Minister Dan Tehan, and the education national unions, and I will be meeting with them tomorrow to discuss a set of arrangements we would like to proceed with.

“That importantly keep schools open, that also will protect those teachers and other staff who are working in schools and to work through those issues to ensure we can put acceptable arrangements in place.”

‘Short and vital window’

Eight Australians have died from COVID-19 after a woman in her 70s who was on board the Ruby Princess ship which docked in Sydney died on Tuesday morning.

There are now more than 2000 cases across the country.

On Sunday night, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a stage one shutdown, which included the closure of pubs, restaurants and indoor sporting facilities.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the government called on a number of academics to advise on a further lock down.

Papers viewed by the SMH on Tuesday reportedly urged the government to take swift action and enforce social distancing measures during a "short and vital window".

It would also lead to the shutdown of schools.

Earlier, Professor Mary Louise McLaws, an advisor to the World Health Organisation and infection control expert, told a stage two shutdown might see people restricted in when they can buy groceries.

A jogger wearing a protective mask runs past a notice of closure and a barrier in front of an entrance to Bondi Beach in Sydney.
A jogger runs past a shutdown Bondi Beach. Source: Getty Images

Prof McLaws told the publication part of the next stage would see one person from each household being allowed out to shop at the supermarket every few days.

It’s a way of shopping which would see less people in stores.

Professor McLaws added supermarkets, health care services, pharmacies and public transport would remain open.

However, starting and ending times would change for workers to ensure they can keep a safer distance while using public transport.

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