‘The toughest economic situation since the Great Depression’

23 March, 2020 by Andy Young

As pubs, bars and clubs across Australia are forced to close their doors, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said we are likely to be facing the toughest economic situation in a century.

As of midday today pubs, bars and clubs joined the list of venues forced to close their doors in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19, which is already standing at 1609 confirmed cases in Australia. So far seven people have died and 69 people have recovered.

Advertisement

The move to close down pubs and bars around the country is unprecedented in peace-time Australia, but the Prime Minister has called on all Australians to do their bit in battling the disease, criticising those who ignored calls for social distancing.

“We will be living with this virus for at least six months, so social distancing measures to slow this virus down must be sustainable for at least that long to protect Australian lives, allow Australia to keep functioning and keep Australians in jobs.

“Practicing good hygiene and keeping a healthy physical distance between individuals is our most powerful weapon in fighting this virus and saving lives. The failure of some businesses and members of the public to do this puts people’s lives at risk.

“We need every Australian to do their bit to save the lives of other Australians.

“Leaders thank those members of the public who are adhering to social distancing measures. However, leaders expressed their disappointment at some members of the community who are disregarding social distancing measures and, by doing so, putting the lives of older and vulnerable Australians at risk.

“If we want to slow the spread, everyone must implement appropriate social distancing in accordance with state and territory laws.”

The stage one restrictions on social gatherings are expected to be in place for at least six months, and the following facilities will be restricted from opening from midday local time 23 March 2020:

  • Pubs, registered and licenced clubs (excluding bottle shops attached to these venues), hotels (excluding accommodation)
  • Gyms and indoor sporting venues
  • Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos, and night clubs
  • Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery
  • Religious gatherings, places of worship or funerals (in enclosed spaces and other than very small groups and where the one person per four square metre rule applies).
  • Isolated remote community hubs are not included in these restrictions.
  • Other facilities are not impacted, but will be considered under stage two restrictions, if necessary.
  • These measures also apply to outdoor spaces associated with the above venues.

Leaders noted that these enhanced measures build on existing measures to slow the virus and save lives:

  • No 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 4sqm. All Australians should expect their local businesses to be following this rule.
  • Where possible, keep 1.5 metres between yourself and others
  • Avoid non-essential travel
  • Restrictions on entering aged care homes to protect older Australians.

Bottleshops will remain open, as well supermarkets and other grocery and convenience stores. Speaking to Seven News about the lockdown measures, the Prime Minister said the six month timeframe is, “based on the expert modelling that we’ve had done through our medical experts to give us an idea about potential spread and duration of viruses under various scenarios, and I’ve said it’s at least that. It could be a lot longer than that.

“That’s why I know when people start talking about locking things down, you can’t just lock things down for two weeks and four weeks and open it again and think it’s all going to be OK. That would be a foolish decision, because when you open it up again, the virus just takes off.

“So if you shut things down, you have to understand that if you do that, that you may well be doing that for at least the next six months. And that has to be sustainable.

“That’s why I say the economic impacts of this and the broader health impacts, it’s going to break our hearts. I have no doubt. But it must not break our spirit or our resolve to continue to deal with this crisis in a sensible way, in a compassionate way, helping each other to help us all through to the other side.”

He added: “People will lose work and we know that’s going to happen. We will seek to minimise it as much as possible. But I’m going to be straight with Australians.

“This is going to be the toughest economic situation we’ve likely seen since the Great Depression and also when it comes to war time, one of the biggest challenges of keeping Australians together and focusing forward since the Second World War. So people need to understand that we are in extraordinary times.”