Monday, March 23, 2020

Mass shutdown of indoor venues

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.


“Bill Bowtell is both deeply concerned and immensely frustrated … ‘Let’s cut to the chase,’ he fires down the phone line, before even being asked a question. ‘They were warned 12 weeks ago by WHO [the World Health Organization] and others what was coming. They did not accumulate test kits. They did not accumulate the necessary emergency equipment. They did not undertake a public education campaign. They gave no money to science, no money to research, no money to the International Vaccine Institute, no money to WHO. They diligently did not do anything useful.’”


“The video shocked many in the defence community. Former Defence Force chief Admiral Chris Barrie was appalled at Australian soldiers no longer behaving as ‘a force for good’. ‘I think there’s also another question of who turned a blind eye to it,’ Barrie told The Saturday Paper. ‘They’re eventually all in the frame, aren’t they?’”


“By Thursday afternoon, they had logged a total of 220,000 cancellations across the arts – a total lost income of $200 million affecting 400,000 people. Other organisations – such as the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance and the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) – are also keeping similar tallies. But they all add up to the same answer: the coronavirus is a calamity for the arts in Australia.”


“If you've found yourself affected by the economic downturn, you'll be able to access a ‘coronavirus supplement’ of $550 a fortnight for the next six months. That's on top of other benefits — so if you're already receiving payments through Jobseeker (formerly known as Newstart), you can claim both … If you're not eligible to receive the coronavirus supplement, you could still be able to claim a $750 stimulus payment. The payment will be made automatically from July 13 to about 5 million Australians, including those receiving the age pension.”


“Australians will be given early access to $20,000 from their superannuation in an emergency effort to help workers suffering financially during the coronavirus pandemic, but there are concerns it is now the worst time for people to dip into their nest eggs. The new measures revealed as part of the federal government's $66 billion stimulus package on Sunday morning would allow individuals facing financial stress due to the disease to access $10,000 in 2019-20 and another $10,000 in 2020-21.”


“All of these drawings feature an overhead perspective so that all of the ingredients of the food Kobayashi depicts can be seen. Furthermore, in the blank spaces in his compositions, the artist writes the names and prices of, and his opinions about the food and the ingredients he portrays. He adds positive descriptive words about his subjects, such as ‘delicious,’ so that he may provoke good memories when he later looks at the drawings.”

Max Opray
is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.