Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that the federal government will be “advising against organised nonessential gatherings of persons of 500 people or greater,” in a huge move to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
The news comes after Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy urged the government to take action this morning to limit the virus’ spread throughout Australian communities.
In a press conference on Friday afternoon, Scott Morrison confirmed that the government will be taking the advice of Professor Murphy.
“In relation to that in particular and based on the advice we have received today about the increasing number of cases on the evidence of community transition, it has been recommended to us that we moved to a position by Monday where we will be advising against organised nonessential gatherings of persons of 500 people or greater – from Monday,” the Prime Minister said.
So far, the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix and Download Festival have both pulled the pin on upcoming events this weekend and next weekend respectively amid coronavirus fears.
Morrison later clarified that the ban only impacts “non-essential, organised gatherings” like music festivals, sporting events and social gatherings.
“That of course does not include schools. It does not include university lectures. It does not mean people getting on public transport or going to airports or things of that nature. These events that we are seeking to advise against and restrict are for nonessential, organised gatherings.”
When asked if people should be avoiding shopping centres or schools, the government asserted that “people can go about their normal essential business they do each day.”
“We will continue to maintain a very pragmatic but cautious approach to manage what is occurring with the virus in Australia,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
Throughout the press conference, Professor Brendan Murphy clarified that the ban isn’t coming into action until Monday because “there’s no immediacy about this” and it’s all about “getting ahead of the curve” as more cases of community transmission pop up over the weekend.
It sounds like an absolute shit storm for anyone who regularly attends sporting events, live music, festivals or any sort of organised group activity, but the government has asserted that this is a precautionary measure. It’s easy to panic when it feels like we’re preparing for a zombie apocalypse, but it appears all of this is simply being done to minimise the spread of the virus as much as possible.
To put it simply: you probably won’t be watching the footy at the MCG this year, but you don’t need to invest in a doomsday bunker just yet.
“What we are announcing today is just another step. It is precautionary. It is getting ahead of this to ensure that we can minimise the impact on your health and we can ensure with confidence the ability for people to be accessing the health services that they and their families will need.”
More to come.
Image: Getty Images / Martin Philbey