Coronavirus: Scott Morrison announces two-person limit for public gatherings

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced rules around public gatherings have been “strengthened” and will be limited to just two people amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“That advice has now been strengthened to say that it should be reduced to two persons in public spaces and other areas of gathering,” Mr Morrison said following a National Cabinet meeting on Sunday.

It is up to the state and territory governments to enforce the two-person limit, Mr Morrison said, the same way states and territories previously enforced the ten-person limit.

Picture of Scott Morrison addressing reporters, explaining the new federal advise of public gatherings restricted to two people
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced further restrictions on gatherings. Source: AAP

Mr Morrison confirmed the two-person rule does not apply to people within your household.

There have been no further restrictions on weddings, which are limited to five people and funerals, limited to 10 people, Mr Morrison added.

Only four reasons to leave your house

Mr Morrison reiterated to Australians it was important for them to remain at home.

He said the public health advice dictates there are only four reasons why a person should leave home - shopping for essentials, medical care or compassionate needs, exercising and education or work.

Speaking after Mr Morrison, Chief Health Officer Brendan Murphy also encouraged Australians to stay at home as much as possible.

“We have to change the way we, as people, interact with each other,” Murphy said.

“It is very simple. We need to all stay home unless we are going out to shop, to do personal exercise, to go to medical appointments, or to go to work or study if you can't work from home.”

Murphy acknowledged these restrictions were “radical”, and said most Australians had “done the right thing in the last week”.

“We have seen huge evidence of that [people staying at home] but we have also seen some very silly behaviour of people who haven't complied with that, particularly outdoors and sometimes indoors,” he said.

“The science shows that you need more than 90% of the population to be doing it all of the time.

“Continue to follow these rules and hopefully these early signs of flattening will mean that we can keep going and getting a reduction in the rate of increase every day.”

Over 70s ‘strongly advised’ to self-isolate

The Prime Minister also advised people over the age of 70 should not leave the house and self-isolate for their own protection.

“This is not a compulsion, this is strong advice,” he said, adding people aged over 70 could still go outside.

“They can go outside and be accompanied by a support person for the purposes of getting fresh air and recreation but should limit contact with others as much as possible.”

Mr Morrison also said people with a chronic illness over the age of 60 and Indigenous person over the age of 50 should also follow the “strong advice”.

From Monday, public area, public playgrounds, outside gyms and skate parks will be closed.

Speaking after Mr Morrison, Chief Health Officer Brendan Murphy said the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia has risen to 3,978.

Pictured is Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy addressing reporters at Parliament House in Canberra
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy update the public on the latest coronavirus measures from Parliament House. Source: AAP

‘At least six months’

Mr Morrison said people should only be going to the shops to get the essentials, and going irregularly.

When questioned on why shopping centres are remaining open, he said he will consider jigsaw puzzles and “essential” over the next six months, saying his wife Jenny went out and bought family a bunch of them over the weekend.

“I can assure you over the next few months we will consider those jigsaw puzzles absolutely essential,” he said.

“It is important that parents and families and households can get the things that they need to completely change the way they are going to live for the next six months at least.”

He also cited sporting equipment as “essentials”.

“I mean people are buying sporting equipment at the moment, game mats and things like that so they can exercise at home. These are things they are going to need,” he said.

“I don't think it is practical when we say for essentials and things that you really need that high-end fashion and these types of things.”

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