COVID-19: The latest information on Coronavirus

Coronavirus update - government announcements you need to know


This page provides all the latest updates from the government and the health authorities on coronavirus and how the changes affect you.

As the independent voice for older Australians, we know how important it is to share up to date, accurate information with you and the community.

Keep informed by reading the following measures and, if you haven’t done so already, subscribe to the Connect eNewsletter for regular updates.

Thursday, 2 April: Research funding for COVID-19 treatments


The Medical Research Future Fund is granting researchers more than $13 million to fast-track research into treatments for COVID-19 and more than $2.6 million to researchers at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity to develop faster, simpler tests for COVID-19.

ABC News Online reports the Prime Minister says Australia has reached a testing rate of more than 1,000 tests per 100,000 people, about 1 per cent of the population.

Childcare boost

The government will also provide support to 13,000 childcare centres across the country to ensure they remain open.

Under the plan, the government will pay 50 per cent of the sector’s fee revenue up to the existing hourly rate cap based on a point in time before parents started withdrawing their children in large numbers, but only so long as services remain open and do not charge families for care. The funding will apply from 6 April based on the number of children who were in care during the fortnight leading into 2 March, whether or not they are attending services.

Flu vaccinations

All Australians - and especially those in vulnerable groups or age brackets - are being advised to arrange being vaccinated for the flu during the month of April. Learn more here.

Wednesday, 1 April: Changes to medicines access


The Health Minister has announced new temporary measures to ensure the supply of essential medicine for all Australians.

The changes include:

  • A home delivery service for PBS and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS) medicines
  • Continued dispensing arrangements on the supply of PBS subsidised medicines without a prescription to be extended until 30 June 2020
  • Restrictions on the quantity of purchasing of medicines to avoid stockpiling
  • Ongoing work with pharmacies, GPs and states and territories on substitution of medication to prevent future shortages.

The consumer watchdog, the ACCC has also authorised wholesale medicine suppliers to co-operate in the distribution of essential medicine and pharmaceutical products.

The government’s home delivery of medicine has been established to help those who are vulnerable or who are isolated, access their medication.

The extension of the continued dispensing arrangements, according to the Health Minister will “allow people to obtain their usual medicines at PBS prices, even if they cannot get a new prescription from their doctor.”

Health Minister, Greg Hunt also reiterated the new measures to prevent stock piling of medicines.

“Pharmacists are required to limit dispensing and sales of certain prescription and over-the- counter medicines to a one-month supply for prescription medicines, and to a maximum of one unit per purchase of certain over-the-counter non-prescription medicines,” he said in a statement.

The substitution measures will allow doctors to prescribe lower dosages of medicines or forms of medicines without the need for approval and take the pressure off busy GPs.

Find out more here.

To access earlier measures, make sure you click on the '+' sign to the right of the headings below to expand the content selection.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020: Alcohol purchasing restrictions


Large alcohol retailers have brought in purchasing limits on the amount of booze you can buy to stop panic buying or stockpiling in the wake of COVID-19.

Dan Murphy’s, Liquourland, First Choice Liquor, BWS, Aldi, Vintage Cellars and Endeavour Cellars all agreed to the measures on 31 March 2020.

Retailers insist there is enough supply to go around.

“Don't worry, supply isn't drying up, these changes have been made to ensure there is enough for everyone to responsibly enjoy their favourite drink at the end of the day,” said BWS on its website.

There are six categories and customers can choose a maximum of two category limits:

  1. Beer: 2 Cases (24 or 30 pack or 4 mixed 6 packs)
  2. Wine: 12 bottles
  3. Cask wine: 2 casks (not exceeding 10 litres)
  4. Spirits: 2 bottles (not exceeding 2 litres)
  5. Premix/RTD: 2 Cases (24 or 30 pack or 4 mixed 6 packs)
  6. Cider: 2 Cases (24 or 30 pack or 4 mixed 6 packs)

The purchase limits apply to in store, online and click and collect transactions.

Retailers say they saw a spike in sales of between 20% to 35% in the past week, but that sales had started to come down.

Tuesday, 31 March: $130 billion JobKeeper payment announced


Six million workers will receive a payment of $1,500 per fortnight through their employer as part of a $130 billion wage subsidy package to save jobs.

The new package, open to eligible employers, is designed to stem job losses from the shutdown of the economy.

The payment will provide the equivalent of about 70 per cent of the national median wage and about 100 per cent of the median wage for those in the accommodation, retail and hospitality sectors.

According to the Prime Minister, the payment will allow those businesses forced to shut down operations during the crisis to continue to provide workers with an income until such time that operations come back online.

The payment will be paid to employers, for up to six months, for each eligible employee that was on their books on 1 March 2020 and is retained or continues to be engaged by that employer.

Employers will receive a payment of $1,500 per fortnight per eligible employee. Every eligible employee must receive at least $1,500 per fortnight from this business, before tax.

To be eligible, small to medium businesses must have experienced a minimum 30% reduction in turnover, while large businesses with a turnover of $1 billion, must have experienced a minimum downturn of 50%.

The JobKeeper package, along with other measures to help protect the economy from the impact of coronavirus, brings the total spent by the federal government to $320 billion, the equivalent of 16.4% of GDP.

To register for the JobKeeper payments, go to the Australian Tax Office website.

Monday, March 30: Over 70s must self-isolate


If you are aged 70 and over, you must remain in your home as federal, state and territory governments introduce tighter restrictions to combat COVID-19.

The federal government says the “strong advice” was announced last night following a meeting of the National Cabinet.

The advice also extends to those 60 years and over with existing health conditions and Indigenous Australians 50 years and older with existing health conditions.

The government said it brought in the measure because “coronavirus has more serious impacts on older Australians.”

While it was described in the Prime Minister’s statement as strong advice, the measure can be enforced by state and territory governments.

At a news conference last night, the Prime Minister said, “This does not mean they cannot go outside. They can go outside and be accompanied by a support person for the purposes of getting fresh air and recreation, but should limit contact with others as much as possible.”

Older Australians are being encouraged to get younger friends and relatives to go out and buy essential supplies if they can, to avoid being exposed to the virus at markets and shops.

NEW SOCIAL DISTANCING RULES

The National Cabinet has also introduced tougher restrictions on public gatherings, limiting the number of people who can get together both indoors and outdoors to just two.

There are however exemptions for the following:

  • People of the same household going out together
  • Funerals – a maximum of 10 people
  • Weddings – a maximum of 5 people (including the bride and groom)
  • Family units

These rules can be legally enforced by state and territory governments.

Friday, 27 March: Overseas travellers to be quarantined and the Defence Force activated


The National Cabinet released the following information.

Latest statistics and medical advice in relation to COVID-19.

There are more than 3,000 confirmed cases in Australia and 13 deaths. Of the newly reported cases in the last week, the majority have been from New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.

The vast majority (around 85%) of cases remain overseas acquired or locally acquired contacts of a confirmed case.

Quarantined incoming travellers

Compliance checks on travellers who are already undertaking their mandatory self-isolation period at home will be increased.

National Cabinet agreed that:

  • No later than 11:59pm Saturday 28 March 2020, all travellers arriving in Australia will be required to undertake their mandatory 14 day self-isolation at designated facilities (for example, a hotel).
  • Travellers will be transported directly to designated facilities after appropriate immigration, customs and enhanced health checks.
  • Designated facilities will be determined by the relevant state or territory government and will ordinarily be in the city of entry where the traveller has cleared immigration, but facilities in other areas may be used if required.
  • These requirements will be implemented under state and territory legislation and will be enforced by state and territory governments, with the support of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and the Australian Border Force (ABF) where necessary.
  • The Commonwealth will provide support through the ABF and ADF for these arrangements across Australia, and that states and territories would meet the costs and determine any contributions required for travellers arriving within their jurisdictions.
  • Air and maritime crews will be required to continue to undertake the existing precautions they are following where they self-isolate in their accommodation if they enter Australia until their next work voyage.
  • The Australian Defence Force will begin assisting state and territory governments to undertake quarantine compliance checks of those who are required to be in mandatory isolation after returning from overseas.
  • ADF personnel will bolster local police efforts in visiting the homes and residences of Australians who are in mandatory isolation as directed by state and territory governments and will report to the local police whether the identified individual was at the residence.

Schools

The medical advice remains that it is safe for children to go to school. However, only children of workers for whom no suitable care arrangements are available at home to support their learning, will physically attend school.

Partnering with private hospitals

State and territory governments committed to urgently finalise arrangements with private hospitals to ensure sufficient and viable capacity exists within the private hospital sector. The private hospital system can play an important role in supporting the acute and intensive care needs of infected Australians together with other continuing urgent care needs. The capacity of the private system for non COVID cases and for overflow, particularly from ICU facilities, may be critical to Australia’s response.

Thursday, 26 March: Salon appointments and funeral restrictions relaxed


The controversial limit on salon appointments to be no more than 30 minutes has been reversed following a meeting of the National Cabinet.

The rule was to come into effect from midnight Thursday March 26, but was overturned effective immediately.

Instead customers will be required to keep their distance from hairdressers and the one person per four square metres rule will apply.

There’s also been a modification to the restrictions on the number of people who can attend a funeral.

The federal government says it will now be up to the states to allow an additional one or two people to attend on top of the previous restriction of no more than ten people at a funeral.

The federal government says the changes followed public feedback.

Wednesday, 25 March: New restrictions announced


The new measures follow a meeting of the National Cabinet of the Prime Minister, Premiers and Chief Ministers, which concluded the best way to combat the rise in the outbreak is by practicing good hygiene and maintaining a safe 1.5 metre difference between each individual.

The federal, state and territory governments have extended bans and restrictions on the following activities and premises:

  • food courts (take away and delivery is still available)
  • funerals can only be attended by a maximum of no more than 10 people and the 1 person per 4 square metres rule applies
  • weddings can only be attended by a maximum of 5 people and the 1 person per 4 square metres rule applies
  • galleries, museums, national institutions and historic sites
  • libraries, community centres and youth centres
  • RSL clubs, PCYC clubs
  • cafes, restaurants (take away and delivery is still available)
  • pubs
  • auction houses
  • real estate auctions and open house inspections (inspections can be done by private appointment only)
  • beauty salons and tattoo parlours (hair salons can operate but appointments can only last a maximum of 30 minutes)
  • spas and massage parlours
  • cinemas and nightclubs
  • casinos and all gambling venues
  • strip clubs and brothels
  • concert venues, theatres, arenas, auditoriums and stadiums
  • play centres (indoor and outdoor)
  • community and recreation centres (facilities may remain open for the purpose of hosting essential services such as food banks or homeless services)
  • health clubs, fitness centres, yoga facilities, saunas, bathhouses and wellness centres
  • boot camps and personal training services (outdoor services limited to 10 people and social distancing must be exercised)
  • swimming pools
  • social sporting-based activities

The operation of the following activities and premises are at the discretion of state and territory governments:

  • caravan and camping parks
  • camp sites
  • bed and breakfast accommodation
  • hotels
  • hostels
  • boarding houses

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also asked Australians to do their bit by limiting the number of people we invite into our homes, including family members.

"We don't want to be overly specific about that [how many people should be gathering in a home]; we want Australians to exercise their common sense," Mr Morrison said.

"Barbecues with 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.”

We are also being reminded to practice good hygiene by:

  • covering your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue
  • putting used tissues straight into the bin
  • washing your hands often with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds, including before and after eating and after going to the toilet
  • using alcohol-based hand sanitisers
  • avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • frequently cleaning and disinfecting used surfaces such as bench-tops, desks and doorknobs
  • frequently cleaning and disinfecting every-day objects such as mobile phones, keys, wallets and work passes
  • increasing the amount of fresh air available by opening windows or adjusting air conditioning.

National Seniors Australia is committed to sharing information about COVID-19 throughout the crisis period.

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