Prime Minister Scott Morrison has this morning announced that all non-essential domestic travel within Australia “must now be cancelled”.
In a game-changing announcement that also covered a wide range of unprecedented (and welcome) economic ‘rescue’ packages to support individuals and businesses, Morrison said that the ‘health crisis’ is now the main battle.
Morrison advised that the only travel that people should now be undertaking is for work reasons or reasons where travel is unavoidable such as for compassionate reasons etc.
Explaining what that means, Morrison said:
“What we are saying is non-essential travel should be avoided and particularly when we’re talking about interstate travel and longer distances, the sort of travel that would not be normally part of your normal life.
“Going to the shops is something you have to do, get into work, other important tasks you have on a daily basis you have to do.
“I think Australians can exercise their common sense about things they know are not essential.
“We will give you as many rules as we can and as many guidelines but we need you to think carefully about what you are doing and your behaviour and the impact it has on others.
“So it does mean that those holidays that you may have been planning to take interstate over the school holidays, cancel them.
“That is what it means. It is regrettable and I know the impact it will have many people in those communities where those holidays were going to take place.
“These decisions are not taken lightly and for those who are arguing for extreme measures all over the country, we would only take further measures based on medical advice because, at the same time that we are trying to protect lives, we are also trying to protect the livelihoods of Australians and that means acting on medical advice and ensuring that we remain totally in lockstep on the incremental changes we’re regrettably enforcing.
“It is the case that that travel needs to be reduced to stop the spread of the virus across the country. Other states will be making other decisions about this issue and they will make further announcements today and I will leave them to make them.”
PM Scott Morrison, Australia
Advising people need to understand that it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that we can get through this together, Morrison said: “people need to do the right thing”.
He also said that “more draconian measures will be coming into effect” in the coming days around applying more severe consequences to people ignoring government advice on social distancing.
Citing the incident at Bondi Beach on Friday that saw thousands of people ignoring the social distancing rule and the beach forced to close, Morrison said that “what happened at Bondi Beach was not ok”.
Bondi’s incident on Friday has since sparked global outrage across social media worldwide.
I can’t not say anything. As a #GP working in #Bondi and living in this area with my children, I am appalled at the lack of disregard by many for how serious this all this. #Bondi this is NOT #SocialDistancing. You are contributing to the spread of #covid 😡 pic.twitter.com/jCtXV6gght
— Amandeep (@Dochansra) March 20, 2020
Yesterday the Northern Territory (NT) closed the state borders to non-residents following Tasmania and Norfolk Island who announced their own strict controls last week.
The NT’s new strict rules will come into play from 4pm on Tuesday 24 March. Anyone arriving from interstate or overseas will have to self-isolate for 14 days. Other states are expected to follow suit in the coming days.
Last week Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia announced all international flights would be grounded with 60% of domestic routes reduced until the end of May.
Today’s announcement will undoubtedly force Australia’s domestic airlines to make more changes to their already reduced schedules due to even less demand.
Speaking about stranded Australians currently on cruise ships or in destinations such as Peru where 700 people are still trying to get home, Morrison advised that DFAT is working as hard as possible to ensure everyone returns as soon as possible saying:
“This is very high on their (DFAT) list to find a way to safely get people home and also access any medical needs they have”.
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