Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a mass closure of pubs, clubs, gyms, cinemas, religious venues and other “non-essential” indoor facilities starting from midday today, following a meeting with state premiers and chief ministers on Sunday night. After a day of chaos in which News South Wales and Victoria pre-empted the meeting with announcements of restrictions on non-essential activity in response to rising COVID-19 infections, Morrison criticised Australians who had ignored social distancing measures, and expressed regret that workers and business owners “will suffer the economic hardship that undoubtedly they will now have to face”. Restaurants and cafes will only be permitted to offer takeaway and delivery services. Shopping centres, supermarkets, banks, pharmacies, and hairdressers are among the businesses that will continue operating. Morrison said schools would remain open but that parents could keep their children home if they wish. However, Victoria and the ACT will unilaterally move to close schools on Tuesday anyway, ahead of school holidays scheduled to start at the end of the week.
Western Australia and South Australia have joined Tasmania and the Northern Territory on imposing strict conditions on interstate visitors. On Sunday, WA Premier Mark McGowan announced “extreme steps” requiring non-essential visitors to the state to self-isolate for 14 days from 1.30pm Tuesday, with fines of up to $50,000 for breaches, and Rottnest Island to be potentially repurposed as a quarantine site. SA Premier Stephen Marshall announced a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine period for visitors to the state starting immediately, with police border patrols to begin Tuesday. Essential transport will be exempted.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced a ban on gatherings of more than two people, as she goes into quarantine herself after contact with a doctor diagnosed with COVID-19. More than 22,000 confirmed infections have been confirmed in Germany, although just 84 deaths have been recorded so far, with a death rate of 0.3 per cent per cent well below that of other nations such as Italy, which has recorded a 9 per cent fatality rate with another 651 deaths on Sunday. Meanwhile, the United Nations has marked World Water Day with the release of the World Water Development Report, which warns that more than half the global population lacks access to safely managed sanitation, making the fight against COVID-19 and other diseases more difficult.
In sport, the AFL men’s season has been suspended until May 31, while the women’s season was called off with no premier declared. The Courier Mail reports ($) the NRL is considering a radical plan to continue the season by relocating the entire competition to the small Queensland town of Calliope, where all 16 clubs would be housed at a vacant mining accommodation facility.