The Australian government has updated advice on non-essential mass gatherings in light of the spike in coronavirus cases locally. There'll now be different advice depending on whether the gathering is inside or outside. Here's what the updates mean.
What did the government announce about mass gatherings?
During a press conference on 18 March, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the government was updating the advice given last week on the limit of people in non-essential mass gatherings.
Now, non-essential indoor gatherings should be limited to 100 people while outdoor gatherings should be capped at 500.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Brendan Murphy said it was important to minimise these larger gatherings as they were a key part of the virus' spread.
"We know that the actual numbers of infected people in our society is very low now," Dr Murphy said.
"But if you get a lot of people together in close contact, that's the way that you can spread the virus. So we need to avoid those large gatherings and limit them, but we also have to keep society functioning."
What events are considered 'non-essential'?
A key part of the announcement was that the bans would only apply to non-essential events such as concerts, music festivals and other social gatherings.
According to the Prime Minister, the following are still considered essential and therefore the ban is not applicable to them:
- Public transportation, which includes public transportation facilities, such as stations, platforms, stops, trains, trams, buses
- Medical and health service facilities
- Emergency service facilities
- Disability or aged care facilities
- Correctional facilities, youth justice centres or other places of custody, courts or tribunals
- Food markets, supermarkets, grocery stores, retail stores, shopping centres
- Office buildings
- Construction sites
- Mining sites
- Schools, universities, education facilities and child care facilities
- Hotels and motels and other accommodation facilities
Everything else, Morrison said, was non-essential.
"States and territories have the ability to add to those lists as they see fit, based on the advice and we are seeking to coordinate that," Morrison added.
Is it likely to change again in the coming days?
This is the latest advice from the government but as we've been seeing in recent days, official advice can change very fast. Just last Friday, for example, mass gatherings weren't differentiated based on whether they were inside and outside and the recommendation has shifted within days of it being put in place.
"Right now, that is the advice and we need to ensure that when we're putting these scalable and sustainable measures in place, that we are doing things that improve the situation, not worsen the situation and lessen our capacity to deal with this," Morrison said.
With that in mind, it's a good idea to reconsider any upcoming big events or plans you might have and whether they can be postponed until the situation settles down. While the timeline is not yet known, Morrison said it could be at least six months.
Australia has just announced it plans to ban mass gatherings of 500 people or more from Monday 16 March in an attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus in the country. It comes after the nation's top health official advised the Prime Minister mass gatherings should be cancelled or postponed until the situation improves. It's a massive step to curb the rate of infection so here's what this means.