Morrison Installs New Social Distancing Measures Which Stop Just Short Of Closing Pubs

Australia has just rolled out even stricter regulations for indoor gatherings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with venues now required to ensure at least four square metres of space for each patron.

Speaking at Parliament House this afternoon, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the measure comes in addition to this week’s announcement that all non-essential  indoor gatherings of greater than 100 people have been banned.

So for example, if you’ve got a room, if you’ve got a premises, if you’ve got a meeting room or something like that, that’s 100 square metres, then you can have 25 people in that room,” Morrison said.

He added that even meeting rooms in the building behind him will adhere to that rule, along with previously-dispensed advice about social distancing to stem COVID-19’s rate of infection.

Is that an outright ban on public gatherings in enclosed spaces, like some other nations have enforced? No, absolutely not, but it is a shift in that direction. The move spells very difficult times ahead for Australia’s small clubs, cafes, restaurants, and bars, without swinging the banhammer at those venues.

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said that schools will be exempt, even if they technically break that 4sqm provision, as keeping schools open is a cornerstone of the Government’s battle plan against COVID-19.

“Our strategy for the next six months is to keep schools open and we think that risk is appropriate,” he said.

Morrison also stopped short of providing further allowances for staff in the arts and hospitality industry, some of whom will very likely lose their jobs amid the COVID-19 crisis. Instead, he said the Federal Government is in discussions with the states and territories about some form of rent relief payment (which will also impact landlords. Keen to see how that one shakes out).

He also swatted away a question about increasing the rate of Newstart to aid vulnerable Australians through a phenomenally tumultuous time, maintaining the Government is still putting the “final touches” on a second stimulus package deployed during the crisis.

“There will be Australians over the next six months who, through no fault of their own, will find themselves with less work, with less income, and in the worst case, without a job,” Morrison said.

“That is going to happen. That’s going to happen to quite a number of people. And it’s our job to ensure that we do as much as we possibly can to cushion that blow”.

He said that package will largely be focused on small and medium-sized businesses, along with sole traders. Individuals, though? Well, look… We’ll keep you posted.