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Essential and non-essential services: A breakdown of what is and isn't shutting down today.

During a late Sunday night press conference, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced nationwide shutdowns of non-essential services to help curb the COVID-19 outbreak.

Morrison said the failure by Australians to observe previously announced social distancing measures – such as by the thousands of people crammed onto Sydney beaches – made the changes necessary.

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“Governments must do their bit… we need Australians to do their bit,” he said.

“On the weekend, what we saw was a disregard of those social distancing practices. As people turned up to the beach in large numbers, crammed venues in our major cities… This sent a very clear message to premiers, chief ministers and myself that the social distancing practices are not being observed as well as they should be.”

What are non-essential services?

In response to Australians not following social distancing guidelines, Morrison listed non-essential services that must close their doors. This includes:

  • Registered and licensed clubs
  • Licensed premises in hotels and pubs
  • Entertainment venues and cinemas
  • Casinos
  • Nightclubs
  • Restaurants and cafes, which will be restricted to takeaway and home delivery only
  • Gyms and indoor sporting venues
  • Places of worship
  • Enclosed spaces for funerals and things of that nature will have to follow the strict four square metre rule, which will be enforced

These new measures are on top of many already rules in place, including:

  • A ban on non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people outside or more than 100 people inside
  • All non-essential indoor gatherings of less than 100 people must have no more than one person per four square metres
  • Keep 1.5m between yourself and others, where possible
  • Avoid all non-essential travel, including domestically
  • Visitor restrictions to aged care facilities

What are essential services?

Morrison said this ‘stage one’ shutdown was not a lockdown. Australians would still be able to leave their homes as required, though they should stay home unless leaving is truly necessary.

The following will remain open:

  • Shopping centres
  • Supermarkets
  • Petrol stations
  • Pharmacies
  • Bottle shops
  • Hairdressers and beauticians
  • Food delivery services
  • Childcare services

Morrison once again stated that panic buying and stockpiling was not necessary.

What about schools?

Morrison said the medical advice for schools has not changed, therefore children should go to school on Monday.

He said arrangements were being made for distance learning frameworks, but this couldn’t happen immediately.

“What we will be doing though is allowing parents in, to the end of this year’s school term, to be able to keep their children at home where they choose to. But for all of those parents who wish to send their children to school, for an education at the school, those schools will remain open. In addition, schools will seek to provide learning at home in a distance learning framework but you cannot be assured that that will come in place immediately,” he said.

In Victoria, the end of term one has been brought forward. Victorian students will have their last day of school on Monday, March 23, and begin their school holidays early.

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NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Monday said schools will remain open, but has urged parents to keep their children at home, if possible.

Morrison stressed that the upcoming two week Easter school break would not be a holiday as it was usually.

“This term break will be like none other. This will not be a holiday as it is normally known for the break in term,” he said.

“There will not be trips interstate, there will not be those holiday normal type arrangements. There will not be congregating up at the trampoline venue or whatever it happens to be. That will not be happening. It won’t be a holiday as anyone has ever known it.

“And it is important I think that families and households understand that because over the course of the term break, we need to ensure that we continue to follow the very strict rules around social distancing.

“This is a critical time. An absolutely critical time. The decisions that parents make, that we all make, over the course of the next few weeks in particular could very seriously determine the trajectory that Australia continues to go on in relation to the coronavirus. So I would seek and implore Australians to follow this advice. You will be saving lives and you’ll be saving livelihoods.”

Morrison said he and other leaders believed schools should reopen following the break, subject to health advice at the time.

“Parents who make the decision for the children to remain at home must take responsibility for those children. Those children are staying at home, it is not an excuse for them to go down to the shopping centre or to go and congregate somewhere else or potentially put themselves in contact with the vulnerable and elderly population. If you choose to keep your child at home, you are responsible for the conduct and behaviour of your children.”

More measures could come.

Morrison said these new measures were due to Australians disregarding social distancing measures. They could last for six months and be ramped up, he said.

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Chief Medical Officer for the federal government Professor Brendan Murphy said “some people haven’t got it” when it comes to how our lives have to change as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coronavirus Australia update Bondi
Bondi beach on Friday. Image: Getty.

"I'm particularly talking to young people who may think they’re immune to the effects of this virus," he said.

"It’s true, most young people don’t get significant disease. But as a young person you don’t want to be responsible for the severe and possibly fatal disease of an elder, vulnerable Australian.

"We have to stop the rapid spread of this virus. There has been very significant increase in cases over the last few days."

The Prime Minister said if these outlined 'stage one' measures are not followed by Australians, harsher measures may have to be enforced.

"As we’ve just made very clear, that when that doesn’t occur, then more dramatic measures have to be introduced," he said.

"I would simply ask Australians to be calm and exercise some sensible judgement."

Read more on COVID-19

The Australian Government Department of Health advises that the only people who will be tested for COVID-19 are those with symptoms who have either returned from overseas in the past 14 days or been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the past 14 days. 

If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000. 

To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website.

Feature images: Getty.

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