Social Distancing and Restrictions Are Working, Says Scott Morrison

Social Distancing

Update: April 3, 2020

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that the Australian Government has moved into its second phase of the coronavirus response.

We are now in the “suppression phase”, Morrison revealed in a press conference this afternoon, April 3.

“Had the virus kept growing at the same rate it was 12 days ago, we would now have more than 10,500 cases in this country,” he said.

“There would be over 5,000 more cases. In fact, some commissioners doing the maths were suggesting we would have had 8,000 cases just as recently as last weekend.

“That is a tribute to the work that has been done by Australians in getting around and supporting the very sensible measures that have been put in place all around the country by the state and territory governments.”

Australia’s COVID-19 testing “best in the world”

While the number of global cases of COVID-19 is well over a million now, chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, is confident in the testing being carried out here at home.

“We’re pretty confident that our testing has been probably the best in the world and that we are very confident that, whilst there will certainly be some undetected cases, we have a pretty good idea of the size of our outbreak,” Murphy said during a press conference.

“As the Prime Minister has said, the growth rate has been falling. It’s about 5% a day at the moment. The broader measures have had good effect.

“We’re still detecting returned travellers, still detecting contacts of returned detecting contacts of returned travellers, but those numbers are reducing. We still have cruise ship people to come home. We still have a lot of issues with people who have contracted the virus from overseas. But we are in control of those issues.”

Updates on JobKeeper and tenancies

Morrison also touched on the government’s new JobKeeper program.

“In relation to JobKeeper, in discussion with states and territory, local governments and their support will be covered by the state government, not by Commonwealth Government,” he said.

But the PM wasn’t able to give a final update on the issue of commercial leases.

“I had hoped we had been in a position to finalise this today, and we’re very close,” Morrison said.

“An industry code of practice for commercial tenancies has been worked on by the various stakeholder groups. That industry code has not got to the point that we believe it needs to get to ensure a sufficient security for tenants and landlords affected.

“Where they have a turnover of less than 50m and they are a participant in the JobKeeper program if you’re in that situation and you’re a tenant we will be working to implement a mandatory code of practice for your communication with your landlord.”

NSW announces grants for small businesses struggling under COVID-19 restrictions

The NSW Government has announced $10,000 grants for small businesses struggling under the weight of the COVID-19 restrictions.

The financial relief will be available for small businesses like cafes, restaurants and gyms, but to be eligible, the business must make more than $75,000 a year and employ up to 19 people, as reported by the ABC.

“We will make the application process easy to ensure small businesses can receive some cash-flow as soon as possible to meet pressing needs,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

NSW residents can track cases of coronavirus via postcode

NSW Health has launched a way of tracking how many confirmed cases of COVID-19 there are in your suburb, as reported by Mamamia.

Simply enter your postcode or suburb and the tracker will give you an approximate number of confirmed cases nearby. For example, when you type in Bondi Beach, the tracker says there are over 50 cases in that area.

Scott Morrison says our “new normal” will last for six months

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has re-confirmed his commitment to keeping schools open after the Easter break, the Sydney Morning Herald has reported.

“One of the things I’ve been most adamant about is that the virus is going to take a lot of things from us in the months ahead — I do not want it to rob our children of their education,” he said on Channel Seven’s The Latest.

According to the PM, the new changes Australians have experienced are going to be the norm for a while longer.

“This is going to be a whole new normal for Australians for some time to come yet,” Morrison said.

“We think six months is the most reasonable estimate of that at the moment. I certainly hope that it may be sooner than that, but it could also be longer.”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is in agreeance with Morrison when it comes to the restrictions currently in place in her state.

“A lot of people are wondering how long will we be in this state for. That depends on a number of different things and most importantly, the health advice,” Berejiklian said.

“I echo the Prime Minister — we’re in it for at least six months. Until there is a cure, a vaccine, this crisis is something we need to deal with.”

Over one million coronavirus cases worldwide

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the globe has surpassed one million, the ABC has reported according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

COVID-19 has killed over 51,000 people worldwide, with Italy, Spain and the United States experiencing the most fatalities.

In Australia, there are now over 5,000 confirmed cases and 25 people have died.

Victoria records another COVID-19 death

Victoria’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, has told Channel Seven’s Sunrise that a man in his 80s passed away overnight, the ABC has reported.

There are currently 1,085 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Victoria and seven people have died in the state.

The current health crisis is evolving rapidly. If you suspect you or a family member has coronavirus you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

Update: April 2, 2020

According to New South Wales Police Commissioner, Mick Fuller, the new social distancing rules currently in place for the state will be in place for roughly 90 days, as reported by Sydney Morning Herald.

These measures ban all public gatherings of more than two people and allows police to fine individuals for disobeying social distancing rules.

“I certainly won’t be seeking an extension, people will have gotten the message by then, hopefully,” Fuller said.

According to SMH, as the laws were effective on Tuesday, March 31, they will last until about June 29.

Energy relief package announced

Energy Networks Australia has revealed it won’t disconnect gas or electricity for any customers in South Australia, NSW and Victoria.

According to the ABC, 12 networks are taking part in the package including Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy.

There is also help being given to businesses in the new scheme.

“For small businesses that are mothballed, electricity and gas network charges will not be applied from the start of April to the end of June 2020, if their consumption is less than a quarter what it was in 2019,” Energy Networks Australia CEO Andrew Dillon said in a statement.

 “Networks and retailers realise it’s important the industry pulls together to support the many small businesses and households who will face growing challenges over the months ahead.

“Networks will work with energy retailers to ensure the benefits of this package flow through to customers smoothly.”

More than 500 businesses will “re-tool”

Following NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s call out to businesses to re-tool and produce medical supplies, more than 500 have jumped on board.

These businesses will pivot from their normal production and soon begin to produce much-needed medical supplies like masks, soap and hand sanitiser.

There are now more than 900,000 COVID-19 cases worldwide

The world has surpassed 900,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, as reported by the ABC.

This staggering number is deeply concerning, according to Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organisation.

“As we enter the fourth month since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am deeply concerned about the rapid escalation and global spread of infection,” Dr Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

“Over the past 5 weeks, we have witnessed a near exponential growth in the number of new cases, reaching almost every country, territory and area.

“The number of deaths has more than doubled in the past week. In the next few days, we will reach one million confirmed cases and 50,000 deaths.”

CSIRO starts first stage trials of COVID-19 vaccine

The CSIRO has started its first stage trials of two potential vaccines for COVID-19, the ABC has reported.

Researchers are injecting ferrets with the vaccines and in four weeks time, the animals will be exposed to the virus.

While this is promising news, human trials are still a while off yet.

Update: April 1, 2020

South Australia’s chief public health officer, Dr. Nicola Spurrier, has told ABC Radio that there are several new cases of COVID-19 linked to Qantas baggage handlers working at Adelaide airport.

These infections were confirmed overnight but Spurrier wouldn’t confirm the exact number.

The new cases are linked to the six baggage handlers who previously tested positive at the same airport.

While Spurrier isn’t aware of the virus spreading to any other staff members working at Adelaide airport, she did say that many workers are currently self-isolating.

NSW records ninth coronavirus death

A 95-year-old woman passed away in Sydney yesterday, the ABC has reported.

The woman was a resident of the Dorothy Henderson Lodge aged care facility in Macquarie Park. This is the fifth coronavirus-related death at the facility.

There have been now 20 coronavirus deaths across the country.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian asks businesses to produce medical supplies

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has asked businesses to change their manufacturing focus and begin producing medical supplies, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Today I’m calling on the great people of our state, those great business people, those manufacturers who are able to re-tool, to consider re-tooling, to help supply the additional things we need in coming months, whether it’s sanitisers, medical equipment and a whole host of other things which our hospitals rely on, in the coming months,” Berejiklian said.

The state is specifically asking businesses who have the capacity to produce supplies like hand sanitiser, gloves, soap, cleaning products and masks.

The Premier also reminded her state to remain vigilant and to continue to take the necessary measures.

“Do not look at the number of cases and whether they are up or down on a day, because it doesn’t take long, it doesn’t take much for things to get out of control,” she said.

Update: March 31, 2020

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New South Wales has surpassed 2,000, with a number of recent infections being linked to the eastern suburbs of Sydney.

According to NSW chief health officer, Dr. Kerry Chant, the outbreak in Bondi and surrounding areas is largely among backpackers, the ABC has reported.

Chant and her team are currently working with St Vincent’s Hospital in order to set up a pop-up COVID-19 clinic in Bondi.

“We do know there is a potential risk that other members of the community may have come in contact with infected backpackers,” she said. “For prudency, we want to increase testing.”

While the numbers of new cases in NSW have slowed slightly, Premier Gladys Berejiklian emphasised that people should remain vigilant.

“That’s not the number to look at,” she said.

“What we need to consider is the community transmission that we might not even know about.”

Tasmania records its second coronavirus-related death

Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein confirmed this morning that an elderly man died in hospital in Hobart overnight, the ABC has reported.

This is the second death in Tasmania in as many days, with a woman in her 80s passing away on Monday, March 30.

“It serves as a warning to us all that these are going to be tough and difficult times and we must all do our part to keep Tasmania safe,” Gutwein said.

Two Coles staff members test positive for COVID-19

Two workers at a Coles supermarket located in Mulgrave in Melbourne have tested positive for coronavirus.

According to the Canberra Times, the Department of Health have allowed Coles to keep the store open.

“Health authorities have not instructed Coles that it is necessary to close any stores, including in cases where team members or customers are diagnosed with COVID-19,” a spokesperson for Coles said.

Staff members who were in contact with the two people have been instructed to self-isolate and the store itself has undergone cleaning.

Three more crew members from the Ruby Princess taken to hospital

The Ruby Princess cruise ship, which is currently docked in Sydney, has been plagued with coronavirus cases, with over 200 passengers infected.

Overnight, three more crew members were removed from the vessel and taken to hospital. According to the ABC, the water police and ambulance service were involved in the removal process.

On Sunday, three other staff members were rescued from the ship after experiencing respiratory symptoms.

The public gathering restriction comes into effect

The restriction that limits all public gatherings to two people has officially come into effect around the country, except in the Northern Territory and South Australia, SBS has reported.

Australians can now face up to six months in jail and fines of over $1,000 if they are caught breaching the rule. In Victoria, individuals will be slapped with on-the-spot fines of $1,652.

According to SBS, the fines given in Queensland will be $1,330, while the penalty in Western Australia is $1,000.

Update: March 30, 2020

Scott Morrison has announced a new economic package to help Australians dealing with the economic fallout of COVID-19. This package will be delivered through the ATO.

“Today I announce that we are committing $130 billion over the next six months to support the jobs and livelihoods of what we anticipate will be 6 million Australians who will need that lifeline in the months ahead,” Morrison said during a press conference.

“We have already boosted the JobSeeker payment for those who have lost their jobs. Today we are introducing a $1,500-a-fortnight JobKeeper payment, to keep Australians in jobs even when the work dries up. We will pay employers to keep paying their employees and make sure they do.”

The Government hopes that the plan will see businesses share the load with the welfare system to provide financial support.

“Our JobKeeper plan sees every Australian worker the same way, no matter what you earn,” said Morrison.

“There is not more support for some as there is for others. If one person falls on a hard time, if anyone falls on a hard time, it’s the same hard time. We’re all in this together.”

Some of the finers details of the package include:

  • The $1500 is a flat payment and is equivalent of 7% of the medium wage
  • It will be available to full-time and part-time workers, as well as sole traders
  • In the case of casual workers, those who have been with employees for one year will be eligible
  • Payments will flow from the first week of May and be backdated from today
  • If you have lost your job, you will still be eligible if it was in March
  • The Government is also partnering with banks to support lending and the public doesn’t have to pay back for six months
  • Tenants will have the security of a six-month moratorium on evictions

According to Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, Australia’s economic response is one not being seen in other countries.

“Our wage subsidy scheme for Australia is unlike those of other nations, Frydenberg said. “It is more generous to New Zealand’s scheme, it is broader than the United Kingdom’s scheme. Our scheme is uniquely Australian, with every eligible employee receiving the same wage subsidy.

“This unprecedented level of support reflects the unprecedented moment that we are in. The announcement today is the means by which Australians can get to the other side of this coronavirus crisis.”

Authorities will be cracking down on new two-person rule in public spaces

On Sunday, March 29, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a new restriction to the number of people who can be in a public space at one time.

From midnight tonight, March 30, public gatherings will be limited to two people. This limit doesn’t apply to members of the same household, the SBS has reported.

Authorities have warned that they will be cracking down on those breaching the two-person rule.

“That is something we will enforce but I also want to remind everybody that you shouldn’t be leaving home unless it is for work, for school, for essential things that you need to buy or else if you need to seek medical attention or exercise,” said NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. “They are the only reasons you should leave home.”

According to the ABC, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has told the public that police will be enforcing this rule in his state.

“If you are outside, or in your backyard, gathering in more than two people, if you are having friends over for dinner or friends over for drinks that are not members of your household, then you are breaking the law,” Andrews said.

“You face an on the spot fine of more than $1,600 and Victoria Police will not hesitate to take action against you. That is how serious this is.”

The ACT Government has also announced it will be paying special attention to this new law, while South Australia will be handing out a $1,000 fine for those in breach.

There are now over 4,000 confirmed cases in Australia

According to the ABC, there are now more than 4,100 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia. The death toll in the country is now at 17.  Tasmania recorded its first coronavirus-related death, with a woman in her 80s passing away in Tasmania this morning.

Over the weekend, a 75-year-old woman and a man in his 80s also died.

Numbers in NSW are “stabilising”

This morning, March 30, health authorities in NSW confirmed another 127 new cases of COVID-19. The state’s total number of infections is currently sitting at 1,918. According to NSW chief health officer, Kerry Chant, these numbers are “stabilising”. This does not mean we can become comlpacent. We still need to adhere to stict social distancing rules, and keep working hard to stop the spread of the virus.

“Whilst pleased we need to be cautious and it is the long-term trend in that data that is going to be important,” Chant said.

Update: March 27, 2020

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a new regulation being placed on Australians arriving from overseas. According to Morrison, this “enables us to deal with the increasing pressure we have of Australians coming home.”

Australians who return home from overseas will now be quarantined in government-supplied hotels for two weeks after returning.

“So, by no later than midnight tomorrow – that is 11:59pm Saturday – states and territories will be quarantining all arrivals through our airports in hotels and other accommodation facilities for the two weeks of their mandatory self-isolation before they are able to return to their home,” he said.

Morrison explained the regulation by using an example of if you lived in South Australia, but you land in Sydney for a connecting flight, then you will be forced to undergo the two-week quarantine in Sydney.

This new regulation comes into effect tomorrow, March 28. According to the Prime Minister, two-thirds of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia are connected to travel.

Businesses will now go into “hibernation”, according to Morrison

Morrison has also revealed that the Government is asking businesses to go into a period of hibernation, in order to survive the next few months.

“We want these businesses to effectively go into a hibernation, which means on the other side, the employees come back, the opportunities come back, the economy comes back,” he said.

“This will underpin our strategy as we go to the third tranche of our economic plan, and that will include support by states and territories on managing the very difficult issue of commercial tenancies and also dealing ultimately with residential tenancies as well.”

According to the ABC, there will be more details on this in the coming days.

Woolworth announces new roles

Woolworths has announced it will be hiring up to 20,000 new team members across Australia in order to meet increased demand.

In New South Wales alone, 5,700 new jobs will be created at Woolies.

According to the ABC, extra hours have also been offered to existing staff and the roughly 3,000 staff from Woolworths pubs (which have closed) have also been redistributed within the business.

The supermarket chain is also offering up 5,000 short-term roles to Qantas staff members who are currently taking leave without pay as the travel industry is grounded over COVID-19.

NSW Premier concerned over “unknown” community transmission

NSW recorded 186 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, making it the second day in a row that the figures have dipped, the ABC has reported.

But, Premier Gladys Berejiklian is worried about how the virus is now spreading, telling people they shouldn’t go outside unless they “absolutely have to”.

According to NSW’s Chief Medical Officer, Kerry Chant, there are roughly 145 cases that weren’t linked to travel or being in contact with another confirmed case.

“That is the group that most concerns us because it represents community transmission without an unknown source,” Chant said.

“When it is community-to-community transmission and you don’t have a source, that means the virus is starting to spread in the community without us knowing where and that’s a concern,” Berejiklian said.

“We are starting to see an increase in the spread from unknown sources and that’s why we are stepping up the compliance, we are stepping up the advice.”

Premier Berejiklian also reminded Australians that those most vulnerable should be staying home.

“In the case of my parents, I haven’t let them out of the home and I won’t,” she said.

“If you’re an older or vulnerable person, don’t even leave home, but please know that no matter what decisions our state takes in the coming days and weeks, that you will always have a supermarket you can get what you need from.

“You will always have a pharmacy. You will always have the essential things that you need to use for your daily health.”

Confirmed coronavirus cases surpass 500,000

There are now more than 500,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across 182 countries. This includes more than 23,000 deaths worldwide.

According to SBS, the number of actual cases is believed to be higher as many countries are only testing patients who require hospitalisation.

In Australia, the number of confirmed cases is  2,985 (as of 6:30am on March 27). 13 people have died from COVID-19 here and NSW has the highest number of confirmed cases of any state or territory at 1,405.

Update: March 26, 2020

New South Wales has experienced a drop in the number of new confirmed cases of COVID-19.

In the last 24 hours, the state recorded 190 new infections, a drop from the day before which saw 212 new cases, as reported by the ABC.

Despite the slight dip, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that further closures may be needed if the numbers don’t continue to fall.

“If things haven’t shifted because of the actions we took earlier in the week, and actions which I’m very pleased we took at that time, we will have to go further,” she said.

“And I just want everyone to be prepared for that, not to be overly concerned or panicked, but just to know that the New South Wales Government will go further if we have to, because it’s in the interests of public safety.”

According to the ABC, the total number of confirmed cases in NSW currently sits at 1,219.

Queensland and Victoria record first coronavirus-related deaths

The number of COVID-19 related deaths in Australia has risen to 11, with three men passing overnight.

Two men in their 70s died in Victoria, the ABC has reported.

“They’re our first deaths,” Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, said.

“But in a sense they’re not unexpected. We’re now up to 520 cases, so two deaths amongst 500 is relatively small looking at the global figures.”

A third man, aged 69, also passed away in Queensland late on March 25. The gentlemen contracted COVID-19 while aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, which docked in Sydney last week.

Coronavirus testing criteria changes

The Government has offically announced a change to the testing guidelines for COVID-19. Previously tests have been only offered to those who had flu-like symptoms and had either returned from overseas or had direct contact with someone who was confirmed to have COVID-19.

According to the SBS, the criteria has now been expanded to include aged care workers, health workers, high-risk settings (like detention centres, prisons, rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, boarding schools and military bases) and identified hotspots.

Individuals still have to be exhibiting a fever or respiratory symptoms to be eligible for testing.

The 30-minute rule for hairdressers to be lifted

When Scott Morrison announced a series of restrictions and closures to come into effect at midnight on March 25, he revealed that while hairdressers and barbers could remain open, customers could not be on the premises for longer than 30 minutes.

According to the ABC, that rule has now officially been scrapped by the Government.

Supermarkets in NSW allowed to stay open 24/7

In an attempt to ease panic buying and meet increased demand, supermarkets and pharmacies in NSW will now be allowed to stay open round the clock.

“These orders cut red tape so we can move quickly and decisively to ensure the health, wellbeing and safety of our community during this time,” Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes said.

Update: March 25, 2020

The Australian Government has announced an official ban on international travel. According to SBS, exceptions will be made for aid workers, those seeking to go overseas on compassionate grounds, allowing Aussies who live overseas to return to their homes and some commercial and government workers. This ban takes effect at midnight tonight.

While Scott Morrison asked Australians to ditch their travel plans last week, an official ban will come into effect today, March 25. 

“The number of people who are leaving Australia now is very, very low,” Morrison told the press on Tuesday, March 24.

“But it strikes me on those numbers there are people defying that advice and looking to go overseas on leisure travel. They can’t do that because when they come home, they put Australians at risk.”

Tasmania brings school holidays forward

Tasmanian Premier, Peter Gutwein, has announced that schools in the state will be closing four days earlier than usual as school holidays are being brought forward. This means schools in Tasmania won’t be open from April 6, the ABC has reported.

Parents in Tasmania were told they could keep their kids home from school as of today and learning materials would be provided.

Gutwein also announced tougher border security for Tasmania and the use of government-provided accommodation for visitors arriving in the state.

“All non-essential passengers will be instructed to travel directly to their place of residence and if they don’t have a place of residence in Tasmania, they will be instructed to either return to the airport of departure or they will be directed to government-provided accommodation for the self-isolation. And charged a fee for that service,” he said. 

“They will not be allowed to go to a shop or supermarket on the way to their residence or to their government accommodation.”

According to the ABC, breaking self-isolation in Tasmania could result in a fine up to $16,800 or six months in jail.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 surpasses 1000 in NSW

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has again jumped in New South Wales, with 211 people testing positive in the last 24 hours. This brings the state’s total to 1,029, the ABC has reported.

Two of these newly confirmed cases are children, with a two-month-old boy and a seven-year-old girl being infected. Chief Medical Officer, Kerry Chant, revealed that both kids were exhibiting minimal symptoms and were in isolation at home.

A woman in her 70’s is the seventh person to pass away from COVID-19 in NSW (the eighth in Australia). The woman contracted the virus aboard the Ruby Princess cruise ship, which was allowed to dock in Sydney last week. 

According to Chant, many of the new 211 infections are directly linked to the Ruby Princess ship, the ABC has reported. 

Despite the rise in confirmed cases, Premier Gladys Berejiklian says that NSW is still “maintaining some control over the virus” considering most of the cases are linked to travel and not from local transmissions.

Virgin Australia grounds domestic capacity

Only a week after Virgin Airways announced the grounding of its entire international fleet, the airline has decided to cut 90% of all it’s Virgin Australia domestic capacity. According to the ABC, this means grounding 125 planes.

As apart of this measure, 8,000 of the 10,000 Virgin Airways employees will also be stood down until at least May. 

“There has never been a travel environment in Australia as restricted as the one we see today and the extraordinary steps we’ve taken have been in response to the federal and state government’s latest travel advice,” said Virgin Airways CEO, Paul Scurrah.

TigerAir has also announced the grounding of all its domestic flights immediately, as reported by the ABC.

Scott Morrison announces further restrictions

Following a late cabinet meeting on Tuesday night, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a number of new restrictions being brought into effect as of today, March 25. 

According to the ABC, the new restrictions concern businesses and gatherings like weddings and funerals. These include:

  • Funerals limited to a maximum of 10 people
  • Only five people can attend weddings — this includes the couple, the celebrant and two witnesses. If you want a photographer, they will have to count as a witness.
  • Hairdressers and barbers can continue to open, but a customer can’t be on the premises for more than 30 minutes
  • Personal training and boot camp classes are limited to a maximum of 10 people

Morrison also announced the closure of a number of other businesses, including:

  • Indoor and outdoor play centres
  • Community and health centres, fitness clubs, wellness centres and studios including yoga, barre, spin as well as saunas
  • Public swimming pools
  • Art galleries, museums, historic sites, libraries, community centres
  • Auction houses, real estate auctions and open house inspections
  • In-store beauty therapy including nail salons, tattoo parlours, tanning, waxing, spa and massage parlours
  • Food courts within shopping centres will also be able to sell takeaway, but shopping centres will remain open

Morrison also touched on social visits, advising that seeing people at home “should be kept to a minimum and with very small numbers of guests”.

“We don’t want to be overly specific about that; we want Australians to exercise their common sense,” Morrison said.

“Going out for the basics, going out for exercise, perhaps with your partner or family members provided it’s a small group — that’s fine.

“Barbecues of lots of friends or even extended family coming together to celebrate one-year-old birthday parties and all these sorts of things — we can’t do those things now.”

The Prime Minister also reminded the public to stay home as much as possible.

“You should only go outside your home to go to those essential things I talked about, not to go and congregate in groups,” Morrison said.

“If we do all these things then we are going to be able to put greater pressure on slowing the rate of the spread of this virus.”

Update: March 24, 2020

Changes will be made to the testing requirements for COVID-19 this week. Up until now, you had to have travelled overseas or been in contact with someone who had recently travelled to be eligible for testing.

According to SBS, that rule is being scrapped as of this week.

“We’ll be removing the traveller component, but we’re working on that at the moment,” Paul Kelly, Australia’s deputy chief medical officer, said on ABC’s Q&A program on Monday night.

These changes will be announced sometime this week.

Kelly defended the initial guidelines, as over half of the 1709 cases in Australia came directly from an overseas traveller.

“We need to test where it’s most likely to be positive,” he said. “Up to this point, it’s most likely to be in people that have been returning from overseas.”

There has also been a global shortage of COVID-19 test kits, so Australia has been doing targeted testing rather than widespread testing.

NSW records 149 confirmed cases in a single day

In the last 24 hours, New South Wales has recorded another 149 confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total up to 818.

According to the ABC, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that this increase in cases was “substantial” and that NSW “is at a critical stage in relation to the virus. We need to make sure the spread stops.”

Chief Medical Officer, Kerry Chant, said that overseas travellers accounted for a large chunk of cases.

“We have 425 that are overseas-acquired,” she said. “It is essential to protect the border community, and those that you love, to maintain that self-isolation.”

Berejiklian also defended her decision to keep schools in NSW open, while at the same time asking parents to keep their children at home.

“Schools stay open. If you need to send your child to school, schools stay open,” she said.

“However, we are recommending at this time that parents keep their children at home. Good government means prudent planning, it means making sure you have a no-regrets policy. And I have a no-regrets policy.”

According to the Minister for Education, Sarah Mitchell, the school absentee rate in NSW last week was 41% — a massive increase from the usual 8%.

The World Health Organisation calls for political commitment in fighting COVID-19

There are now more than 300,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the globe and the World Health Organisation (WHO) is worried about the speed at which it is moving.

“The pandemic is accelerating,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said at a media briefing on March 23.

“It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach the first 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000 cases and just 4 days for the third 100,000 cases.

“But we’re not prisoners to statistics. We’re not helpless bystanders. We can change the trajectory of this pandemic.”

The director-general called for political commitment from the world’s leaders.

“We need unity in the G20 countries, who have more than 80% of global GDP,” he said. “Political commitment at the G20 means strong solidarity that can help us to move forward and fight this pandemic in the strongest way possible. The most important ask to G20 leaders is solidarity, to act as one, because they have the biggest stake in the world, in all respects.”

The current health crisis is evolving rapidly. If you suspect you or a family member has coronavirus you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.