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Lockdown set to take place at the stroke of midnight

25 Mar 2020
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Overnight Scott Morrison unveiled further unprecedented measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus, which are set to take place at midnight.

Following significant outbreaks occurring at social events and gatherings across the country, and particular groups of society failing to abide by previous social distancing recommendations, the government looked to put restrictions in place and even announced fines that could be levied should guidelines not be followed.

The lockdown has expanded to include food courts, auction rooms, real-estate auctions, open homes, massage parlours, beauty salons and a range of other non-essential services. Galleries, museums, libraries, swimming pools, children’s play centres and community facilities will also have to close.

Cafes will still be able to provide takeaway food, and similarly, food court members can remain open but only for takeaway services. Boot camps and personal training sessions are being limited to a maximum of 10 people, and strict social distancing rules are to be observed.

Weddings may continue; however, it can only be attended by the couple, celebrant and witnesses. Similarly, funerals can only include ten people, and social distancing rules have to apply.

Mr Morrison also notes that individual states are considering criminal penalties for those that fail to abide by the rules, particularly those that hold large house parties.

There is an expectation that the government will also send a text message to every cell phone in Australia today, providing a brief overview of social distancing guidelines.

At a federal level schools are remaining open, which Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, defended earlier this morning in an interview however as we have seen this is very much a state by state scenario. In Victoria, for example, schools temporarily closed by starting the holidays one week early.

While Australia appears to be following the same tactics implemented by the UK, many experts are warning the floodgates are likely to open soon. While it is widely expected that a surge in reported cases will quickly occur, there seems to be a mixed message right now about the severity of the cases. Professor Robert Booy from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance believes this may be the lull before the storm and said “while eight deaths and 2000 cases in Australia are encouraging numbers, if physical distancing rules are not followed scrupulously from here onwards, it could get much more serious and then the government will only become more draconian”.

The proposal makes sense, and there is science to back the argument. Research led by the University of Sydney into the spread of COVID-19 showed that if 80% of the community followed social distancing rules for 13 weeks, it would be enough to control the virus. If 90% of us followed guidelines, the virus would be under control by July. So far, the government has been trying to find a balance between controlling the outbreak and maintaining an underlying economy instead of completely closing the doors. The most successful control mechanism implemented by other countries has been a complete shutdown with strict quarantine efforts restricting the movement of individuals.

Yes, they had more severe outbreaks than Australia, but they were reactive while right now, Australia has the opportunity to be pre-emptive and get a handle on the outbreak before it blows out.  Should current strategies fail to contain the pandemic then naturally you would assume we will end up there anyway.

 

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