COVID-19: Further restrictions on businesses, gatherings and travel (as of 25 March 2020)

As quickly as the pandemic that is COVID-19 has seemingly spread across our states, just as quickly have governments on all levels scrambled to enforce and encourage new restrictions on the personal and business lives of all Australians.

On Sunday night last week (22 March 2020), Premiers and Chief Ministers held National Cabinet with Prime Minister Scott Morrison to discuss an approach in dealing with the pandemic. Following the meeting, Mr Morrison announced an initial wave of restrictions on many businesses integral in the lives of Australians. Importantly, it was noted by Mr Morrison that these restrictions were to be put in place particularly due to the “failure of our public” in taking the advice by government authorities to self-isolate. This failure, along with an increasing rate of cases of COVID-19 across our states resulted in the decision to immediately and indefinitely close the following places:

  • Registered and licensed clubs
  • Licenced premises in hotels and pubs
  • Entertainment venues and cinemas, casinos and night clubs
  • Restaurants and cafes – excluding takeaway
  • Indoor sporting venues
  • Places of worship including churches

The places listed were closed and remain closed since 12 o’clock midday on Monday this week (23 March 2020).

Whilst Mr Morrison announced these restrictions, it was simultaneously revealed that a further $66 billion stimulus package was to be added to the then-current package. This meant that a total $189 billion was to be set aside as funds ready to keep small and medium-sized business afloat amid the crisis of COVID-19.

The scale of the size of this package is an indication of the anticipated ramifications that businesses will face as a result of the pandemic. There has even been discussion of a further revision of this package.

Clearly, the crisis that we face has and will continue to have a severe impact on not only the health of Australians but on the economic bearing that businesses will need to adapt to.

New restrictions on businesses from midnight Wednesday 25th

Only two days later and Mr Morrison on the 24th of March 2020, along with advice from authorities on all government levels, had announced further restrictions on businesses to deter large group gatherings in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Several new restrictions have been placed on particular types of businesses:

  • Amusement parks and arcades are no longer permitted to continue;
  • Indoor and outdoor play centres are to be closed;
  • Community and recreation centres including public swimming pools, health clubs, fitness centres, yoga, barre, spin facilities, saunas, and wellness centres must be closed;
  • Real estate matters including auctions and open house inspections can no longer be held;
  • Businesses involving physical contact, such as in-store beauty therapy, tanning, waxing, nail salons and tattoo parlours, spa and massage parlours, are no longer permitted with the exception of allied health related services such as physiotherapy, dentistry etc;
  • Food courts within shopping centres are still allowed to be opened, however, businesses will only be able to sell takeaway meals;
  • Shopping centres themselves will remain open;
  • Hairdresser and barber shops can continue subject to the following restrictions that the customer must strictly practice social distancing (4m2); and
  • Other institutions including galleries, museums, national institutions, historic sites, libraries, community centres are no longer permitted to stay opened.

New restrictions on gatherings:

In addition to restrictions to businesses, the Federal Government has made new restrictions upon non-essential gatherings.

  • Home gatherings with friends and family members are still allowed but we have been advised to limit the number of people to a minimum;
  • Personal training and boot camps are still permitted but must be limited to a maximum of 10 people;
  • Weddings can continue, but only with the couple, the celebrant, and witnesses totalling a maximum of five people; and
  • Funerals are also limited to a maximum of 10 people.

The aforementioned restriction further impacts on churches, who may have adjusted their ordinary activities around a “small group” model.

Travel restrictions:

There are also updated restrictions on travel.

Travelling overseas are no longer permitted. An exemption however may apply where:

  • the citizen normally live overseas;
  • Travel is essential or necessary;
  • Travel is in national interest; or
  • Travel on compassionate and humanitarian grounds

Eligibility to travel will be determined by the Australian Border Force.

For more information about travel restrictions click here

Final advice: In Mr Morrison’s final words, we have been advised to stay at home unless necessary. Such necessities can include groceries, medical needs, care/support, exercise and work where it cannot be at home.

Authors: James Tan, Kerry Copley, Ervin Hii (student placement).

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