From Monday at midday, Australia will become a vastly different place to live as pubs, clubs, restaurants, cinemas and indoor sporting venues across the country shut down indefinitely.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a new raft of unprecedented restrictions on non-essential gatherings in a bid to slow the rapid spread of coronavirus.
More liberal measures rolled out last week fell on deaf ears, with Australians continuing to cram into venues across the country this weekend.
“We don’t now have any confidence that people would refrain from gathering in those ways, in those pubs, clubs and nightclubs,” Mr Morrison said at a press conference in Canberra.
“We have no confidence that will be followed. So unfortunately, because guidelines can’t be followed, then for public health reasons we now need to take further action which shuts those gatherings down.”
As a result, stage one of tough new restrictions will be implemented on Monday, March 23 at noon, covering a wide range of venues that will see them shut down.
And they could stay shut for up to six months.
The Prime Minister said that the measures cover anything deemed a “principal place of socialisation”.
All pubs, registered and licensed clubs, and licensed premises inside hotels and pubs will close, Mr Morrison said.
In those venues, accommodation facilities can continue to operate as normal but with good hygiene and social distancing measures in place.
Entertainment venues such as theatres, cinemas, casinos and nightclubs will also shut their doors to patrons.
Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to providing takeaway only, with dining in now forbidden from midday.
“Home deliveries, takeaway, all of these things will continue, as I know many of these catering businesses are already adjusting their business models in anticipation of things that they believed would potentially take place,” Mr Morrison said.
Takeaway alcohol businesses will be able to continue operating.
Also subject to the closure order are indoor sporting venues and places of worship.
“Enclosed spaces for funerals and things of that nature will have to follow the strict four square metre rule which will be enforced,” Mr Morrison said.
The historic order could be just a taste of things to come, with the Prime Minister saying authorities would consider further restrictions if necessary.
“The premiers and chief ministers together with myself will be considering stage two restrictions in this area, but what we first want to see is we want to see the public respond to these very serious measures,” he said.
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He warned that these tough new restrictions will be in place until the coronavirus crisis is brought under control.
“Once you start putting these sorts of arrangements in place, we should have the expectation that they will remain in place for at least six months,” Mr Morrison said.
“I wouldn’t want to give the impression that these arrangements are things that will be in place for a couple of weeks or a month and then will be discarded and everything will be OK. These are very significant measures.”
Shopping centres and supermarkets are not subject to the new restrictions, he said.
Mr Morrison conceded that this widespread closures will have an economic impact on businesses and could see Australians lose their jobs.
“I am deeply regretful that those workers and those business owners who will be impacted by this decision will suffer the economic hardship that undoubtably they will now have to face.
“That is a very, very regretful decision.
“But it’s a necessary one in the view of the premiers and chief ministers and myself, to ensure that we can control the spread of this virus.”
Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy had a stern message for those Australians ignoring urgent warnings about social distancing.
“If Australia is going to get through the challenge of this pandemic over the coming months, we have to live differently,” Professor Murphy said.
“We’ve been making that point very clear over the last week. But it’s clear that some people haven’t got it. I’m particularly talking to young people who may think they’re immune to the effects of this virus.
“It’s true, most young people don’t get significant disease. But as a young person, you don’t want to be responsible for the severe and possibly fatal disease of an elder, vulnerable Australian.
“We have to stop the rapid spread of this virus.”