Prime Minister Scott Morrison has unveiled tough new guidelines on public gatherings, as he announced work was underway to ban rental evictions during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Morrison said on Sunday that the National Cabinet had revised its 10-person limit on public gatherings to a new limit of two people with the exception of households.
He also urged those aged 70 or over to stay at home with the exception of going outside for exercise or fresh air.
The states will now decide whether or not to legally enforce the new two person rule, and are also moving to ban rental evictions for the next six months for those in financial distress.
“The most significant of those is that states and territories will be moving to put a moratorium on evictions of persons as a result of financial distress … for the next six months,” Mr Morrison said.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy said there were some early promising signs previous social distancing measures were slowing the spread of coronavirus in Australia, but more had to be done.
“We have to change the way we, as people, interact with each other,” he said.
“It is very simple. Anyone who doesn’t need to be out of their home should be in the home.
“This is radical.”
So, how should you and your family observe these tough new lockdown rules? We’ve answered key questions below:
RESTRICTIONS IN PLACE
As of Sunday night, all public gatherings are limited to two people but entire households can still gather together.
All people aged 70 or over have been urged to stay at home with the exception of going outdoors for fresh air or exercise. They should also avoid populated public areas.
Everyone must stay home except for when shopping for essential needs; where work or school cannot be done remotely; when seeking medical services or compassionate grounds, and when exercising with no more than one other person.
Weddings remain at five people and funerals at 10, but states and territories reserve the right to amend this for compassionate reasons
All outdoor gyms and skate parks will be closed from Monday. Public playgrounds will also be closed, but not the entire park.
WILL THE NEW TWO PERSON RULE BE ENFORCED?
The states and territories have been left to decide whether or not they will legally enforce the public gathering limit of two people.
It is expected Victoria and NSW will move to legally enforce the new restrictions.
WHAT THE NEW RESTRICTIONS MEAN FOR THE ELDERLY
All people aged 70 or over must stay home. They may go outdoors for exercise or fresh air but should avoid populated public areas.
CAN I BE EVICTED FROM MY RENTAL PROPERTY?
Renters will be offered a moratorium on evictions, in a bid to deal with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Morrison said a series of principles had been agreed at Sunday night’s National Cabinet.
“The most significant of those is that states and territories will be moving to put a moratorium on evictions of persons as a result of financial distress … for the next six months,” he said.
Further work is being done by Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and his state and territory counterparts on commercial tenancies.
WHICH BUSINESSES HAVE CLOSED?
Beauty therapy, tanning, waxing, nail salons, tattoo parlours, spas and massage parlours have all closed.
Initially, hairdressers and barber shops were told they could only hold appointments spanning up to 30 minutes. However, that has since been overturned. All salons will have to comply with the one person per four square metre rule applies in the premises.
Shopping centres and other shops not specifically told to close, including bottle shops, remain open.
Major department stores such as David Jones and Myer can remain open, although Myer has since closed.
Auction houses will close, while real estate auctions and open house inspections can still go ahead via private appointment.
Food markets will continue to operate in all states and territories.
Medical centres and pharmacies will also remain open.
CAN I STILL GO TO A CAFE OR RESTAURANT?
You can order takeaway or home delivery. You cannot sit down to eat. Cafes or canteens at hospitals, care homes or schools; prison and military canteens; services providing food or drink to the homeless, workplace canteens can provide takeaway.
WHAT ABOUT MALLS AND FOOD COURTS?
Malls and food courts will shut, except for takeaway food and delivery service.
WHAT ARE THE RULES FOR WEDDINGS AND FUNERALS?
Only five people will be able to attend wedding ceremonies – the couple, the celebrant and witnesses.
Just 10 people will be able to attend funerals, all who must adhere to rules around the four-square metre rule and the social distancing practices.
States and territories reserve the right to amend this for compassionate reasons.
WHAT ABOUT ENTERTAINMENT OPTIONS?
Cinemas, nightclubs, casinos, gaming or gambling venues, strip clubs, brothels and sex on premises venues have closed.
Concert venues, theatre, arenas, auditoriums, and stadiums are also shuttered.
Live streaming of a performance by a small group could be permissible with social distancing observed.
Amusement parks and arcades, play centres (indoor and outdoor), have also closed.
WHAT ABOUT BOOT CAMPS? CAN I EXERCISE OUTSIDE?
Families and children can still go for a walk together even if there are more than two people.
The new restrictions mean bootcamps will now be restricted to just two people, including the trainer.
This will also apply to other outdoor events and social distancing must be exercised.
All outdoor gyms and skate parks will be closed from Monday. Public playgrounds will also be closed, but not the entire park.
Health clubs, fitness centres, yoga, barre and spin facilities, saunas, bathhouses, swimming pools and wellness centres have already closed.
WHAT IS THE TRAVEL SITUATION?
The National Security Committee of cabinet also put a ban on any Australians flying overseas, lifting the government’s advise from a “do not travel” warning to a flat travel ban.
Limited exceptions will apply for compassionate travel, aid work and trips for essential employment.
Australians returning from overseas as the coronavirus pandemic worsens will now also be quarantined in hotels and other facilities for two weeks before returning to their homes.
People will be quarantined in the city they fly to, regardless of whether it’s in their home state.
Defence personnel will also help enforce existing self-isolation restrictions on people who have already returned from overseas to ensure they are staying at home for 14 days.
EARLIER MEASURES PUT IN PLACE:
WHAT ARE THE NEW SOCIAL DISTANCING RULES?
All indoor venues including pubs, clubs, casinos, restaurants, gyms, sporting and religious venues will be closed.
Restaurants and cafes will only be allowed to offer takeaway services.
Schools will remain open.
Indoor services for funerals will be allowed provided the strict rule of one person per four square metres and no more than 10 people in total are followed.
Workplaces and offices must follow the same arrangements, but can remain open.
Hotels can continue to operate the accommodation part of their business, but not any licensed pub or club areas.
WHEN DO THE RULES COME INTO EFFECT?
The first phase of the new rules came into effect at 12pm on Monday, while Mr Morrison’s second phase takes effect as of midnight (Wednesday), but they will be reviewed monthly and subject to national health regulations and advice.
They are expected to last up to six months.
CAN I GO OUTSIDE OR DO I HAVE TO STAY HOME?
You can still go outside but future closures will result if people ignore social distancing requirements and begin congregating in groups.
WHAT IS STILL OPEN?
Retail stores, shopping malls, supermarkets, pharmacies, petrol stations, convenience stores, freight and logistics, and home delivery services will remain open.
Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said the consensus view of the nation’s health officials was that schools should remain open.
“Those children who are staying at home, it is not an excuse for them to go down to the shopping centre or to go and congregate somewhere else, or potentially put themselves in contact with the vulnerable and elderly population.
“If you choose to keep your child at home, you are responsible for the conduct and behaviour of your children.”
Schools will be required to stay open until the end of term, and continue after the holidays provided health advice does not change, however parents will be allowed to keep their children at home if they want to.
WHAT IS ‘DISTANCE LEARNING’?
Mr Morrison said schools could make work available for children who were held back from school.
“Schools will seek to provide learning at home in a distance learning framework but you cannot be assured that will come in place immediately,” he said.
“That will take some arrangements from those schools, particularly the public schools, in many independent and Catholic schools they may choose to move to those models, already have, but what is important here is if you are a parent and you want your child to go to school up until the end of this term, and the schools should remain open and must remain open is the instruction, until the end of that term.”
WHY ARE THESE RESTRICTIONS HAPPENING NOW?
According to Mr Morrison the stricter measures are being enforced because of people ignoring social distancing after an increase in coronavirus cases.
The Prime Minister has warned the closures could continue for six months and will increase in severity if they are not observed properly.
Here are some of our other tips and tricks for surviving COVID-19 in self-isolation:
COVID-19 can live on plastic for up to 72 hours, steel for up to 48 hours, cardboard for up to 24 hours and copper for up to four hours, according to a recent study.
Frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards and bedside tables, should be cleaned at least weekly.
If anyone in your home is sick, these surfaces should be cleaned daily.
Start cleaning in the cleanest area and finish in the dirtiest area to avoid cross-contamination.
Linen should be regularly washed in hot water.
Do not touch used linen against your clothing while carrying. Use a laundry basket or similar.
Mechanical cleaning with detergent and water, followed by rinsing and drying, is the most effective method for removing germs from surfaces.
Disinfectants are only necessary if a surface has been contaminated.
If cleaning a room where someone with COVID-19 has been, use a 1000 ppm bleach solution to clean surfaces and ensure you are wearing appropriate personal protective equipment such as a disposable apron, gloves, a mask and goggles.
Source: Queensland Health, study from NIH/Princeton/UCLA
If you can, visit supermarkets only when necessary and consider buying food online or takeaway instead.
If going to the shops is unavoidable, try to go in quieter periods.
Woolworths and Coles have hygiene stations in stores around the country which contain disinfectant wipes for customers to clean their trolleys and baskets.
You do not need to wear a face mask when in public if you are healthy. The Australian Government advises, while masks can help prevent transmission from infected patients to others, they are not recommended for healthy members of the public.
Practice social distancing measures when in public, including at the supermarket.
These include staying home if you are unwell and keeping a distance of 1.5m between you and other people where possible.
Source: NSW Health, Australian Government Department of Health
Use public transport in off-peak periods if possible to stagger demand on the service.
If using public transport is unavoidable, ensure you practice social distancing and hygiene measures to reduce the risk of infection.
Use debit, credit and transport cards to pay your fare, as opposed to cash.
Wash your hands frequently before and after travel, do not travel if you are feeling unwell, try to avoid touching your face, cover your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze, avoid using a mask if you are well and use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with more than 60 per cent alcohol.
Source: Public Transport Victoria, NSW Health
Australia’s largest food delivery services – including Menulog, Uber Eats, Dominos, Crust and Pizza Capers – have already taken steps to stem the transmission of COVID-19 with contact-free delivery.
Uber Eats and Deliveroo are also offering financial assistance to drivers who test positive to COVID-19 or are forced to isolate for 14 days.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has advised it is “unlikely” COVID-19 can be transmitted through food.
As for food containers, a recent study found COVID-19 could survive on plastic for up to 72 hours and cardboard for up to 24 hours.
Professor Ramon Shaban, clinical chair of Infection Prevention and Disease Control at Westmead Hospital and the University of Sydney said while COVID-19 was not transmitted through food in an “ordinary sense”, the risk of contracting the virus from symptomatic food handlers or delivery drivers could be reduced by limiting surface contact.
“It’s not like we can expect that everything that gets delivered to our house is going to be contaminated,” he said.
“Adopting good hand hygiene is really very important when we interact with our environment and others.”
COPING WITH ISOLATION
Talk to other members of the family about COVID-19 to reduce anxiety.
Keep up a normal daily routine as much as possible.
Exercise regularly at home. Exercise is a proven treatment for stress and depression.
Ask your family, friends or other members of the household to pick up your groceries and medicines for you. If this is not possible, you may be able to order groceries and medicines online or by telephone.
Arrange to work from home.
Ask your child’s school to supply assignments or homework by post or email.
If you are sharing a home with others, as much as possible, you should remain separated, wear a surgical mask if you’re in the same room as another person, use a separate bathroom and avoid shared or communal areas.
Do not share a room with people who are at risk of severe disease, such as the elderly, or those with heart, lung or kidney conditions, or diabetes.
For more information and support while in home isolation, call the National coronavirus Health Information line on 1800 020 080.
Source: Australian Government Department of Health, NSW Health
MORE SURVIVAL GUIDE
Can I get COVID-19 a second time?
To date, there is no evidence of COVID-19 recurring in a patient who has recovered from the condition.
Professor Ramon Shaban, clinical chair of Infection Prevention and Disease Control at Westmead Hospital and the University of Sydney explains: “We do have evidence that shows people who have COVID-19 develop antibodies, which is the human body’s response to an infection, and these antibodies are what the body uses to fight future infections”.
“We can feel quite confident that it behaves in many other ways that is characteristic of a respiratory virus and there’s been no evidence of recrudescence.”
What happens at the end of my 14-day isolation period?
If you have not developed symptoms by the end of the isolation period, you are able to re-enter the community. If you do develop symptoms within 14 days of returning to Australia, or within 14 days of last contact of a confirmed case, you should see a doctor immediately. You must remain in isolation until public health authorities inform you it is safe to return to your usual activities.
Source: Australian Government Department of Health
WORKING FROM HOME
It can be tempting to turn your bed into an office, dodge video calls, and work at whatever hour suits you but experts are warning Australia’s growing work-from-home army to avoid these pitfalls to stay productive and healthy.
While working from home will be easier for some more than others, they recommend establishing a home office, a routine, negotiating with housemates, and turning on the webcam during conference calls to maintain social contact.
Onya managing director Hayley Clarke, who manages a team of employees remotely, said life outside the workplace didn’t need to feel isolating, and many workers actually talk to clients and colleagues more during the day.
“I don’t have less communication working from home because I’m still talking to people on Skype or over the phone all day every day,” she said. “It might not be the same kind of chitchat that you get when someone drops into the office though, and you have to learn to read auditory cues more than visual cues.”
And Australian Institute of Management WA chief executive Professor Gary Martin recommended workers make sure they keep their computer’s video camera turned on when participating in video conferences and calls over platforms such as Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, Cisco WebEx, and Slack.
Face-to-face contact was an important part of staying socially connected, he said, though he warned workers to negotiate with others in the household who had also been sent home to work.
“Having a shared calendar about your commitments can help because you don’t want to have people invited over when you’re in the middle of a teleconference,” he said.
Ms Clarke said it was also important establish a dedicated work location at home, prepare daily task lists, and to set regular work times to keep your day on track.
“The biggest recommendation about working from home is just to start the day normally. If you just roll out of bed and stay in your PJs, it’s hard to stay motivated,” she said.
Originally published as The strict new rules that begin in Australia today