PM scraps 100-patron limit, international students to return to Australia

PM scraps 100-patron limit, international students to return to Australia

Prime Minister Scott Morrison expects pilot programs for the return of international students to start next month, while patron caps at indoor venues will be replaced with the four square metre rule under Stage 3.

Under changed rules for that next stage under Australia's suppression strategy, stadiums with less than 40,000 people will be able to have seated ticketing at 25 per cent capacity.

Following a week where there have only been 38 new cases of COVID-19, of which more than half were from overseas transmission, National Cabinet met today to put the wheels in motion for significant changes.

The application of these guidelines will still depend on decisions made by State and Territory governments, but they are expected to commence in July.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall has also announced today that his state's borders will reopen on 20 July.

As of next Friday the 20-person per room limit will be lifted to 75 in the Festival State, while the number of people allowed in a venue will go up from 80 to 300. Thenn Stage 3 will kick in on 29 June with a cap removal as per National Cabinet plans. 

100-person venue cap replaced with four square metre rule

Stage 3 previously capped indoor gatherings to 100 people per establishment, but that limit has now been removed and will be replaced by a four square metre rule per person per room rule.

This measure will apply to each room in a premises, so larger venues will have scope to let more people inside. 

The new rule will not just apply to venues like pubs, clubs and restaurants, but also for funerals, places of worship and outdoor areas too.

However, nightclubs are "not on the agenda" for this change given the difficulty of enforcing social distancing in the setting.

"We have seen overseas that that is one of the areas of failure where nightclubs have opened, and Michael Gunner, the Chief Minister in the Northern Territory, today noted that even though that is not prohibited the application of the one and a half metre distancing means that venues have not opened there because it's just not commercially practical to do so."

Smaller stadiums to open up for capped seated events

The PM has also announced that for venues like smaller stadiums with a capacity of 40,000 people or less under Stage 3 they will be able to operate with specific restrictions in place.

Venues that run outdoor sporting or cultural/entertainment events can be operational as long as people are seated with a cap on 25 per cent capacity, meaning some venues may be able to have up to 10,000 people. 

For example a venue with a capacity of 40,000 up to 10,000 people will be able to attend.

This new rule will also apply to outdoor festivals, enabling them to operate on the condition that patrons are seated. This may rule out traditional music festival-style events though, considering how people often roam about the space and are not seated.

"This is something that will be happening under Stage 3 where states and territories choose to move to that, and it will require quite a bit more work," says the PM.

"We have to give venues and others time to prepare for that sort of change, and I think that will be welcomed."

The PM says venues with a capacity of more than 40,000 people are an entirely separate issue which will require further work, and that these larger venues will not be able to operate under the freedoms given to their smaller counterparts.

This means venues like the MCG, ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Optus Stadium in Perth, Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Adelaide Oval, Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, the Sydney Cricket Ground and the Gabba in Brisbane will not be covered under the new changes. However, the PM speculates there will be individual approval processes undertaken by the State Chief Medical Officers to develop re-opening plans.

"When you're up above 40,000 you've got more than 10,000 people going to a gathering and that has implications for the access to those premises, public transport crushes, all of those sorts of things," says the PM.

"I wouldn't want to raise expectations there, I think that will require a fair bit of work. But for those smaller, mid-tier venues and below, up to 25 per cent is something that can be done in Stage 3."

Despite this announcement Adelaide Oval will be operating at a severely reduced capacity this evening for an AFL match between the Adelaide Crows and Port Adelaide. Just 2,000 spectators will be permitted to watch the match live in the stadium that has a capacity of 53,500 people.

International students to return to Australia

Finally, the PM has announced that international students will soon be able to return to Australia.

He says the Federal Government is working closely with states and territories on a pilot program to facilitate the re-entry of international students into Australia, but no date has been set for when that might occur.

Students will only be allowed to come to Australia on a pre-approved plan for particular institutions. 

"I'm not suggesting this is going to happen soon - there's still a lot of work to do," says the PM.

"We have received some very well thought through proposals from states as to how this can be done, particularly here in the ACT, and this is something I'm sure we would all welcome happening again.

"But it has to be done with the appropriate quarantine, entry arrangements, biosecurity, all those matters being addressed."

Ultimately, the PM has stressed that States will first need to open up borders domestically before any plan to allow international students into the states can be put into motion.

"If you want borders open for international students then you need to open the borders for Australians," says the PM.

Updated at 2pm AEST on 12 June 2020.

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