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The most significant lifting in restrictions since the lockdown will occur this month in most states except Victoria, which is imposing tough new lockdowns on suburban hotspots of new COVID-19 cases. Here’s what you need to know.
NSW eases restrictions
From 1 July, restrictions in New South Wales will ease in venues such as pubs and clubs and wedding reception centres.
There will no longer be a limit of the number of people at such venues, but licensees and managers must ensure patrons are seated and the one person per four square metres rule is observed.
Cinemas and theme parks will re-open while stadiums will allow crowds of up to 10,000 people.
Victoria imposes new lockdowns
In what’s been called the ‘10 postcode’ lockdown, the Victorian government has reimposed tough new restrictions on suburbs declared ‘hotspots.’
More than 200 new cases have been recorded in just the past four days.
Residents in those hotspots have been ordered to stay in their homes and can only leave for essential travel such as buying supplies, going to work, exercise or going to the doctor.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews says police will be patrolling the suburbs affected.
“There will be booze bus type arrangements on main corridors, in and out of these postcodes,” he said.
Queensland to open its border with NSW
On July 10 Queensland will allow travellers from New South Wales to enter the Sunshine State.
It will also allow other interstate visitors, with the exception of Victoria. Residents from that state will be ordered to quarantine at a hotel for 14 days at their own expense, if they are allowed to enter at all.
The quarantine order also applies to anyone travelling from Victoria including Queenslanders returning from the southern state.
Travellers from other states will be made to sign a declaration on whether or not they have travelled to Victoria in the past 14 days. A $4,000 fine applies for any false information.
SA considers easing more travel restrictions
South Australia has also imposed a travel ban on its neighbouring state of Victoria but is also considering opening it border to travellers from NSW and the ACT.
The state already allows travellers from Western Australia, Queensland, the Northern Territory and Tasmania.
State governments are under increasing pressure to start easing more social distancing rules, especially in the wake of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests last weekend. So, we thought we’d update you on what’s allowed.
WIND BACK OF RESTRICTIONS
Restrictions began to ease in most states and territories late last month. The relaxations are gradual so health authorities can monitor any risk of a “second wave” of infections as has happened in other countries when restrictions were relaxed too quickly.
The biggest relaxation throughout Australia has been the reopening of cafes, restaurants and bars, though restrictions remain.
In NSW for example venues are limited to seating or serving no more than 50 people at any one time, while in Victoria and the ACT the limit is 20 people.
And the restrictions are strictly enforced, for example Victorian Police shut down a pier in the Mornington Peninsula last weekend, because fishermen were not observing social distancing rules, that’s despite crowded protests in Melbourne not being given the same enforcement.
Western Australia’s restrictions are among the more relaxed, allowing venues such as restaurants, pubs and cafes to operate under a “100/300” rule. That is no more than 100 people in an indoor room, or 300 in a multi room venue.
Travel restrictions are also being relaxed, although mostly this means you can travel for a holiday within your own state.
Queensland’s border remains closed to allow only essential personnel who have a permit, while South Australia and Tasmania allows interstate visitors, but they still must self-isolate at an appropriate venue for 14 days upon arrival.
Western Australia’s border remains closed except for exempt people who are classified here.
AGED CARE VISITS
The current restrictions of only allowing one visitation per day of no more than two people per visit applies to all states although the Northern Territory does not specify a limit on the number of visitations, but each visit there must have no more than two people at a time.
All states and territories have banned anyone under the age of 16 from residential aged care (except on compassionate grounds) and all visitors must have had an influenza shot from May 1 onwards to be allowed into the facilities.
WEDDINGS AND FUNERALS
The controversial limit on funerals has also started to be relaxed. In NSW, Victoria and Queensland a maximum of 50 people can now attend a funeral, while in South Australia a maximum of 80 people can attend any public gathering. In Western Australia’s the limit is 100 people.
For weddings in NSW, Victoria and Queensland the limit is 20 people.
WHAT’S ALLOWED IN YOUR STATE OR TERRITORY
For more on each state and territories’ restrictions see below:
The federal government announced plans to reopen the economy by July and get 850,000 people back in jobs, and further relax ‘lockdown’ restrictions as a result of a flattened curve of new coronavirus infections.
National Cabinet agreed to a three-step plan for relaxing restrictions to create a "COVID-safe economy and society".
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he aims to incrementally reopen cafes, restaurants, gyms and cinemas, allow gatherings of up to 100 people and permit interstate travel.
He has left it up to the states to roll out the lifting of restrictions according to their timetables.
“Success is not being able to stand up every day and say there’s three cases or 12 cases or 18 cases,” Morrison told reporters after a meeting of the National Cabinet. “Not when you’ve got a million people out of work,” the PM said.
- Gatherings up to 10 people, five guests allowed at home
- Playgrounds, pools and golf courses reopen
- Retail and small cafes and restaurants reopen
- Up to 10 people at weddings (in addition to couple and celebrant)
- Up to 20 people at indoor funerals or 30 at outdoor funerals (in addition to those conducting the ceremony)
- Gatherings up to 20 people
- Cinemas, galleries and beauty parlours reopen
- Organised community sport returns
- Some interstate travel may resume, depending on situations in each state and territory
- Gatherings up to 100 people
- Most workers back in the workplace
- Interstate travel resumes
- Pubs and clubs reopen with some restrictions
Mr Morrison said there were no immediate plans for the return of international travel.
Royal Commission calls for submissions on COVID-19
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has released a statement encouraging the public and aged care providers to make submissions if they have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic in any way.
Specifically, the Commission is wanting to look into deaths in aged care facilities as a result of the virus.
The Commission says it has been collecting information since March to include the lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic, including the recent outbreak at the Newmarch facility in western Sydney.
However, the Commission stresses that its inquiry should not “distract providers from giving residents of aged care facilities the care that they need in these difficult times.”
Head here for more information on the Royal Commission and COVID-19.
Boost to personal safety technology support at home
Providers of the federal government's seniors support programme, the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP), are being encouraged to purchase personal monitoring technology such as alarms for their vulnerable clients.
Providers may use unspent funds in 2019-20 to purchase the equipment which seniors can use to have their personal safety monitored in case of an emergency. Providers can spend up to $1,000 per client. The federal Health Department says the equipment is to support vulnerable older people facing social isolation during COVID-19.
A Visitor Access Code to ensure a nationally consistent visitation policy to residential aged care homes during the COVID-19 crisis has today been released by aged care peaks and consumer advocacy organisations for consultation with the public.
The Code aims to apply a compassionate and consistent visitor policy that continues to minimise the risk of COVID-19 while providing innovative on-site visiting solutions to maintain the mental health of residents.
The draft Code has been endorsed by consumer advocacy organisations Carers Australia, Council on the Ageing Australia, Dementia Australia, National Seniors Australia and the Older Persons Advocacy Network and aged care provider peak bodies Aged & Community Services Australia, Aged Care Guild, Anglicare Australia, Baptist Care Australia, Catholic Health Australia, Leading Age Services Australia, and UnitingCare Australia.
Consultations will take place next week with aged care residents, families, families of choice, friends, along with aged care providers and staff. Consultation will close on Thursday 7 May 2020. It is envisaged the code will be finalised by Monday 11 May 2020.
If you would like to know more about the draft code please email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
$205m of new funding for residential care to fight COVID-19
The federal government has announced an additional $205 million to help the residential aged care sector deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
Metropolitan aged care homes will get $900 per bed and regional aged care homes $1,350.
The additional funds will help the sector pay for extra support to residents including extra staff and boosts to treatment, screening of staff and visitors and additional protective equipment.
Mature age jobseekers, especially those who recently lost their jobs, will start to breathe a sigh of relief as the temporary Coronavirus Supplement of $550 starts to roll out this week.
The Coronavirus Supplement is an additional top-up payment for people receiving certain income support payments.
The Supplement provides an additional $550 a fortnight ($275 a week) on top of an existing payment. It means the incomes of those on the JobSeeker Payment, which used to be known as Newstart, will roughly double.
The Coronavirus Supplement will be paid to anyone receiving the following support payments:
- JobSeeker Payment (formerly known as the Newstart Allowance)
- Sickness Allowance
- Youth Allowance for jobseekers
- Parenting Payment Partnered
- Parenting Payment Single
- Partner Allowance
- Farm Household Allowance
- Youth Allowance students and apprentices
Small business owners and casual workers will also be eligible for the Supplement if they earn less than $1,075 per fortnight
The assets tests and usual waiting periods will be waived to help people to gain access, however the income test will still apply.
The Supplement is classed as taxable income.
Payments begin on 27 April and are available for up to six months.
If you already receive one of the welfare payments listed, you don't have to do anything. Services Australia will automatically pay the Supplement to eligible recipients each fortnight.
What if you don’t receive an income support payment
If you're not currently receiving a payment, you'll need to apply.
Under expanded eligibility rules you will be eligible for the JobSeeker Payment if you were:
- A permanent employee who has been stood down or lost your job
- A sole trader, self-employed, a casual or contract worker whose income has reduced, or if you are
- Caring for someone who's affected by coronavirus
Income testing will still apply but provided you earn less than $1,075 a fortnight, Centrelink should approve your claim, meaning you would then also get the $550 Supplement.
However, if your partner earns more than $79,762 a year you will not be eligible for the JobSeeker Payment (the partner income threshold was increased from $48,100 on March 30).
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has strengthened his call for aged care providers to adhere to the national principles on allowing visitations to residents during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Morrison has threatened to make the principles mandatory if there was evidence that providers were not changing their approach.
Under the national principles, residents can have two visitors a day, but some facilities are still barring families from seeing their loved ones.
"I am flagging very clearly at a federal level, that should we not see an improvement in this area, under the voluntary arrangements that we currently have in place, that the Commonwealth would be moving to require aged care facilities that wish to have an exemption to those national principles ... they would need to seek authority to do that from the Commonwealth," he said.
"It's not my inclination to explore that sort of regulatory approach, but if it's necessary then we'll do it."
While there was an acknowledgement by the Prime Minister that there were situations when bans on visitation were required to ensure the safety of residents and staff, all other facilities must follow the national advice.
"…having people stuck in their rooms, not being able to be visited by their loved ones and carers and other support people, that's not okay."
National Seniors and other consumer groups have written to the National Cabinet stressing that family must be allowed to visit after careful checking in situations where the resident is near death, when family has been involved in a resident’s behavioural management plan and for other compassionate grounds.
Good nursing homes are doing this and the others can follow their lead.
There is growing anger and confusion over the easing of aged care coronavirus restrictions, with some facilities accepting visitors, while others are in total lockdown. Critics say banning families from visiting loved ones is a disgraceful example of elderly abuse. #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/UZGL00gIBd
— 7NEWS Adelaide (@7NewsAdelaide) April 22, 2020
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced stay at home restrictions will ease from 11.59pm 1 May 2020. Queenslanders will be able to leave their homes for recreation and the distance they can travel has been extended.
Queenslanders will enjoy some relief from stay-at-home rules and be able to:
- Go for a drive;
- Ride a motorbike, jetski or boat for pleasure;
- Have a picnic;
- Visit a national park; and
- Shop for non-essential items
There are three conditions that apply linked to the above:
- Social distancing and hygiene must be maintained
- You have to stay within 50km of home and
- Outings are limited to members of the same household or an individual and one friend
All other rules including gatherings and limits on visitors remain in place during this time.
The Premier has noted that this will be closely monitored and “at the first sign of a spike we will not hesitate to clamp back”.
“This is a test-run to see what effect easing restrictions has on the containment of COVID-19.
“I encourage all Queenslanders to back this first step so that we can keep the virus away and help everyone start to get their lives back.”
For more information visit https://www.covid19.qld.gov.au/.
Premier Mark McGowan has announced some of Western Australia's stage three restrictions will be relaxed effective Monday, 27 April 2020.
The changes, based on health advice, will mean indoor and outdoor non-work gatherings will be relaxed to enable for up to 10 persons, lifted from the two person only limit, following continued low number of new cases and the encouraging response to COVID-19 in WA.
Indoor and outdoor gatherings for up to 10 people include weddings, outdoor personal training, and open house or display village inspections.
Everyone should continue to practice appropriate social distancing and stay home except for:
- shopping for what you need, such as food or other necessary supplies;
- medical or health care needs, including compassionate requirements;
- exercise, including outdoor personal training without shared equipment;
- training or university study, where remote learning is unavailable;
- childcare or school;
- non-contact recreational activities such as private picnics in the park, fishing, boating, hiking and camping - all in compliance with travel restrictions and the 10-person rule;
- home opens and display village openings, with appropriate record keeping and hygiene practices in place, and in compliance with the 10-person rule.
The new 10-person rule aligns WA with South Australia. If a single household has more than 10 people, that household remains exempt from this new rule.
All public playgrounds, skate parks and outdoor gym equipment are to remain closed.
All other restrictions will remain in place for now, in a bid to manage social distancing and better protect Western Australians.
Restaurants, cafés, food vans, food courts and road houses remain restricted to takeaway and home delivery.
For more information visit https://www.wa.gov.au/government/announcements/covid-19-information
Following a meeting of National Cabinet yesterday, the government was updated on the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline medical staff.
It was agreed that given there was enough stockpile of PPE and ventilators, some elective surgical procedures would be allowed to resume from next Monday 27th April 2020.
These category two procedures include:
- Screening programs (cancer and other diseases)
- Post cancer reconstruction procedures (such as breast reconstruction)
- Procedures for children under 18 years of age.
- Joint replacements (incl knees, hips, shoulders)
- Cataracts and eye procedures
- Endoscopy and colonoscopy procedures
The resumption of these surgical procedures will be gradually staged and reviewed on May 11th.
The National Cabinet also noted that the practice of some aged care providers having a complete ban on visitations was inhumane.
In a statement it said, “It is not acceptable, fair or compassionate for any residential aged care facilities to ban visits from carers and families. “
It also restated the current restriction on visits to aged facilities to be short, no more than two persons in one visit, per day, per resident and that those visits should take place using the social distancing rules.
Bans remain on the following:
- Those who have returned from overseas in the last 14 days;
- Those who have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days;
- Those with fever or any (even mild) symptoms of acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath); and
- Those who have not been vaccinated against influenza (after 1 May).
The Federal Government has announced increased funding for mature aged workers. This funding will support them in accessing training and finding work under the Career Transition Assistance (CTA) program.
The CTA program assists mature job seekers aged 45 and over with training and support to improve their digital literacy, job opportunities and identifying transferrable skills.
The program will be funded by an additional $41.7 million from early May until June 2022 to enable jobactive providers to refer mature age job seekers into the program.
Through the CTA program, mature-age job seekers can learn new skills which enables them to become more competitive in their local labour market through a short form, targeted training.
New funding arrangements will be available until 30 June 2022.
National Cabinet met today and the PM has told reporters that all measures and restrictions on movement and social gathering remain in force without change.
Any relaxation of measures is some way off and that phase will depend on implementing widespread testing and tracing of community cases which means boosting local response capabilities.
Cabinet will address the issue of reopening elective surgery at its meeting next week.
Regarding schools, it seems government advice remains the same and the PM emphasised that the states have responsibility for their education systems.
Some of the main points from the PM’s post cabinet briefing follows at the end of this item.
The world’s leaders are talking of small or ‘gentle steps’ in retreating from the current lockdown.
The good news is that the curve continues to flatten, the bad news is the continuing deaths and the deepening impact the lockdown is having on the economy.
As mentioned, National Cabinet met today (April 16) with talk of navigating a way for the Australian states to begin a retreat from the lockdown measures that are currently in place.
While that’s good news, we are being reminded to be vigilant against any community transmission of the virus.
One of the measures on gentle steps out of lockdown are likely to be a return to schools by students in 4-6 weeks’ time, although that will depend a lot on actions taken by the states.
Aged care infections
While the number of new infections around the country continue to slow, there is concern in NSW where approximately half of the new cases of infection stem from an aged care facility.
According to NSW Chief Medical Officer, Dr Kerry Chant, six staff and nine residents at the Newmarch House facility near Penrith in Sydney’s west have tested positive to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The cases are being blamed on a worker at the facility who arrived at work with ‘mild’ symptoms or ‘no’ symptoms’, depending on the news source you read.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases passes 2 million world-wide and the number of deaths approaches 140,000.
Trans Tasman 'bubble'
The Australian newspaper is reporting that there are negotiations of opening the trans-Tasman border with New Zealand, with Australia and New Zealand both being able to flatten the curve in infections of COVID-19.
“If things keep on going that way, that is a serious possibility, yes we are exploring that as we speak,” New Zealand’s Deputy PM Winston Peters told TVNZ.
The Australian is also reporting that New Zealand is looking at opening a “whole lot more” industries as it prepares to ease lockdown restrictions.
PM Morrison's main points
- Today we have 6,457 cases. Unfortunately 63 people have lost their lives due to COVID-19. We've got 42 people still on ventilators across the country.
- Restrictions to remain in place for at least the next four weeks Scott Morrison says the next four weeks will be used to try to achieve the three things he just mentioned. As a result, all current restrictions will remain for that time.
- They also highlighted, though the need to make sure on the other side of the virus, as we make our road out, that any sense of business as usual when it comes to the policy framework we had election will need to be reconsidered on the other side.
- To make sure we can achieve growth that will be necessary for our economy to get people back into work, economy back on track, it will be a different world on the other side of the virus and there will be many challenges, and the National Cabinet has a very good appreciation of this, and there has been some talk about its role on the other side of the virus, and that is a discussion for another day.
- On finance we were advised today that markets are finding a new normal in this COVID-19 world, but that new normal, and that relative stability - and everything is relative now - will depend very much on continuing to achieve a stable health outcome.
- On bond markets, $13 billion was raised yesterday on a syndicated offer which had $25.8 billion of bids, and that follows after the $5 billion raising the previous week there coverage of over four times. Aince the 20 March $28 billion has been raised by the Australian office of financial management, this should give Australians a sense of confidence that the significant financial commitments we have made.
- The health advice has been consistent that for children schools are a safe space for children. Where the confusion arises is that for teachers they are more likely — teachers are more at risk in the staffroom than they are in the classroom when it comes to how the health advice plays out and the impact of this virus on children as opposed to teachers. That means that we need to have proper arrangements in place for teachers and other staff in schools obviously to protect their work environment, but at the same time that doesn't lead to the same rules applying for students because they have a different level of risk.
The PM usually posts material and video of briefings here.
According to the news media, despite the new rules around paying rent and outlawing evictions there's confusion about what a commercial tenant and landlord can actually do.
It seems that confusion extends, even more so, to the residential rental market where the PM has hand-balled responsibility to state governments while declaring a moratorium on evictions and urging landlords and tenants to negotiate and compromise.
The Australian Financial Review reports today that the lack of clarity about evictions is creating angst for tenants, landlords and their agents, except in Tasmania where the rules have been seemingly fairly well clarified.
States of play
According to the AFR, landlords in Tasmania can still evict tenants for malicious damage; a mechanism exists for those who have bought a home for themselves and need the tenant to move out; and landlords and tenants can still agree to end the lease early. And in Hobart, where the number of properties for lease has soared over 500 for the first time in five years, an exiting tenant is likely to find a better, cheaper place to call home.
PhilipWebb Real Estate manages about 6,000 properties in Melbourne. By Tuesday, 390 tenants had asked for a rent reduction and 130 had demonstrated hardship and struck a reduced rent with their landlord.
At PRD Nationwide Hobart, only 50 of the 800 tenants have applied for rental help, though the managing director, Tony Collidge, expects to eventually lose 20 per cent of his rental income.
Morton Real Estate manages 3600 homes across Sydney from the harbour to Penrith. Tenants requesting a reduction have been asked to fill out a form detailing their hardship.
In all, some 86 rent reductions have been negotiated, ranging from reductions of 10-40 per cent.
The AFR concludes the numbers, though painful to individual owners, seem surprisingly small.
Perhaps the Federal Government’s lifelines are helping. Perhaps the scale of the problem will emerge in the next two weeks as more tenants simply don’t pay the next rent instalment.
“We know tenants are losing jobs, and we know landlords are losing jobs. Everyone understands that it is a different world, and everyone is co-operating to get us through it,” says Morton joint managing director, Ewan Morton.
The uncertain and changing income will eventually flow through to property values.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To access earlier measures, make sure you click on the '+' sign to the right of the headings below to expand the content selection.
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:
- Beer: 2 Cases (24 or 30 pack or 4 mixed 6 packs)
- Wine: 12 bottles
- Cask wine: 2 casks (not exceeding 10 litres)
- Spirits: 2 bottles (not exceeding 2 litres)
- Premix/RTD: 2 Cases (24 or 30 pack or 4 mixed 6 packs)
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
- 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
- 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.
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