PM tightens indoor gathering restrictions, ups support for aged care, national budget postponed

PM tightens indoor gathering restrictions, ups support for aged care, national budget postponed

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced tougher restrictions to indoor gatherings during a press conference this afternoon as the Covid-19 situation worsens in Australia.

Indoor, non-essential gatherings will be restricted even further to four square meters per person in a room.

For example, in a room the size of 100 square meters only 25 people would be able to gather inside at any one time.

It comes in conjunction with a new stimulus package targeted at the aged care sector worth $444.6 million, adding to $100 million in funding already announced.

The package includes $234.9 million for retention bonuses, $78.3 million for residential care to support continuity of workforce supply, $26.9 million to supplement viability of residential aged care facilities, $92.2 million in additional support for home care providers like Meals on Wheels, and $12.3 million toward the My Aged Care service to respond to needs of older australians.

The PM has also advised all Australians to reconsider the need for unnecessary travel anywhere. 

Ultimately the messasge from the PM and the Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy was clear and simple: stay home, practice social distancing, and do not work if you are sick.

"It is your civic duty to your fellow Australians to stay home for that entire 14 days if you've come back to Australia," says Murphy.

"No exceptions."

Further, the national budget will be postponed until the sixth of October. The states are making similar arrangements to postpone their own budgets.

"Forecasting the budget is difficult at the best of times, let alone when we're in the midst of a global pandemic," says Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

"It's important that we are able to deliver a budget at a time when there is more certainty about the economic environment, and that is planned for the first Tuesday of October."

Schools around the country have been instructed to continue to stay open, but the PM does encourage holding classes remotely where possible or practicable. 

What is next on the PM's agenda?

In addition to the gathering restrictions, travel advice and the aged care support package the PM hinted at a number of changes that may be implemented in coming days.

Referring to the announcement made this morning by the Australian Banking Association that banks will defer loan repayments for all small businesses affected by Covid-19 for six months, the PM says landlords should expect to make similar sacrifices in the coming months.

"I want to particularly welcome the decision...that was made by the banks today which showed that they are pulling together with everyone else to ensure that we can get Australians through this," said the PM.

"States also agreed today, and further work will be done on this, working to identify how relief can be provided to tenants in both commercial tenancy and residential tennancies to ensure that in hardship conditions there will be relief that will be available."

"Now I know that will mean something for landlords...all Australians are going to be making sacrifices, and everyone does have that role to play, and that will include landlords at the end of the day for people who are enduring real hardship."

It also appears as if the Federal Government is working on a plan to deal with localised outbreaks of Covid-19 in specific communities.

Morrison says he is working with his medical expert panel on constructing a response plan to manage outbreaks that are localsed to specific communities of Australia.

No plans or details are set in place as of yet, but the PM says they are working on a scalable plan should a localised outbreak occur.  

The PM's announcement comes as the global death toll cracks 10,000, with 10,030 people having died from Covid-19. 244.517 people are now confirmed to have been infected, and 86,025 people have recovered. 

In Australia there are now 786 confirmed cases, with 382 in New South Wales.

Updated at 2.51pm AEDT on 20 March 2020.

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