Royal commissions play safe over virus

Megan Neil
The aged care inquiry will stop the public attending its hearings due to coronavirus concerns

Aged care royal commission hearings will be closed to the public while the disability inquiry has postponed forums planned for next week due to coronavirus concerns.

The aged care royal commission on Friday said it was taking the precautionary step of not permitting the public to attend its hearings and workshops until further notice.

"The royal commissioners want to ensure robust measures are in place to protect the public, particularly frail older people, who may be at risk of contracting the virus at public events like hearings," a commission statement said.

"These measures also ensure that the work of the royal commission can proceed as it completes its program of public hearings and workshops and develops recommendations to be published in its final report due for completion in November 2020."

The ban on public attendance will begin with an Adelaide workshop on Monday and Tuesday focused on research, innovation and technology, which will be live-streamed as usual on the commission's website.

The disability royal commission postponed community forums and information sessions due to be held in northern Tasmania next week due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.

Chair Ronald Sackville QC said the decision was made in the best interest of the health and safety of the community generally and of people with disability in particular.

"We apologise for any inconvenience, however we consider this to be a necessary and appropriate step, given the number of confirmed cases in Australia continues to rise," he said.

Mr Sackville said at this stage a public hearing on education in Brisbane from March 24 would go ahead, but added the commission would closely follow the advice of medical experts.

The national bushfires royal commission is continuing its visits to fire-affected communities across Australia, ahead of formal hearings scheduled to begin with a ceremonial sitting in Canberra in late March.

The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements told AAP at this point the community forums will go ahead as planned unless the public health advice changes.

"Participants who are unwell or who may have been exposed to COVID-19 are asked to exercise caution and not to attend," it said.

The commissioners are meeting with small groups of people in each location.

The commission, which has until the end of August to deliver its final report, said it was too early to say if the coronavirus outbreak would affect its tight timeline.

"The commissioners are committed to ensuring their work continues as planned and will endeavour to continue with consultation, information gathering and hearings as practicably and sensibly as possible," it said.