Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Restrictions on weddings and funerals

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a complex new set of restrictions on Tuesday night, including bans on guests at weddings and a 10-person limit on funerals. The regulations, which come into force at midnight tonight to address the continued rise in COVID-19 cases, include shutdowns of a range of businesses such as amusement parks, recreation centres, public swimming pools, and museums. Hairdressers and barber shops can continue to operate, but customer visits are restricted to 30 minutes. Morrison called on Australians to exercise “common sense” in keeping visitor numbers to homes at a minimum, with no large parties. Australians will also be formally banned from travelling overseas. The announcement came after a National Cabinet conference call with state and territory leaders. Teacher unions will meet with Morrison today to discuss their concerns about schools remaining open.

Confusion has gripped border communities about whether mandatory self-isolation on interstate travel applies to local residents. Tweed residents have been advised they will be excluded from Queensland unless their visit is essential or for work, The Daily Telegraph reports, with possible permits still being developed despite the new regulations coming into force at midnight tonight. Similar issues are faced by people living near the Victoria-South Australia border, where restrictions came into force on Tuesday. A kilometre-long traffic jam formed along the Nullabor desert border crossing between South Australia and West Australia, as people raced to beat the latter’s 1.30pm border closure deadline yesterday.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian reportedly told a private party room meeting on Tuesday that Australian Border Force officials were ­responsible for 2647 passengers disembarking from the Ruby Princess cruise ship last week. The Australian ($) claims she said NSW Health was instructed by Border Force to allow the arrivals, with at least 133 passengers subsequently diagnosed with COVID-19, and one dying of the virus. Meanwhile, legal action is being investigated ($) against both the Ruby Princess and government authorities for permitting the ship’s arrival.

Poland, India and Egypt are the latest countries to impose lockdown measures to combat the spread of COVID-19. Meanwhile Paraguayan Interior Minister Euclides Acevedo has expressed his approval of videos showing police officers employing humiliating punishments on people found on the streets during the country’s nationwide quarantine, such as forcing people to do star jumps while being threatened with a taser. Recorded COVID-19 cases surpassed 400,000 worldwide, according to data compiled by John Hopkins University, with more than a quarter of those cases identified in the past three days. More than 18,200 deaths have been recorded globally.


“The national cabinet now sits atop the decision-making hierarchy in managing the pandemic in Australia. It takes advice from the Australian health protection principal committee, a permanent group comprising the Commonwealth’s chief medical officer and his state and territory counterparts. That committee is drawing on the expertise of virologists, epidemiologists and others with specialist pandemic knowledge.”


“Hatidže also tends to bees – she is, in fact, the last female keeper of wild bees in Europe – and maintains a number of hives in various hidden places throughout the landscape, in hollowed-out trees or behind crumbling stone walls … Every few weeks she travels to the capital, Skopje, to sell that month’s yield and buy supplies, on a journey that seems to transport her from the medieval world into the present day. Then it’s back to the countryside. The cold cottage, the teeming insects.”


“Really, we should not be surprised. Panic buying isn’t an aberration – it’s the logical extension of a political system based entirely on selfishness and indifference, on the hoarding of wealth and property. It is what happens when government persuades the public that it is the problem.”


“Lines stretched outside Centrelink offices for a second day on Tuesday while the MyGov website that allows people to claim JobSeeker benefits once again crashed as thousands of newly unemployed Australians sought access to welfare payments … The government services minister, Stuart Robert, who is responsible for Centrelink and the MyGov website, admitted on Sydney radio on Tuesday the government had not been adequately prepared. ‘Again my bad not realising the sheer scale of the decision on Sunday night.’”


“Parliament won't return until August as the Morrison government tries to limit sitting weeks during the coronavirus pandemic. Labor and the Greens failed in an attempt to have parliament return earlier, saying the economic packages that passed on Monday would need tweaking.
‘The idea that the government has just perfectly nailed very aspect of this $66 billion of new spending is absurd,’ Labor shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers told parliament. He said the opposition would need to scrutinise any new spending.”


“It has to be weird to be launching into space at a moment when the rest of the world is gripped by a crisis—to the one human outpost likely to be untouched by the virus. Even so, Cassidy said the space-bound crew will be closely tracking the developing pandemic from 400km above the planet's surface. ‘We just are thinking, with all the people in the world, we'll be watching from space,’ Cassidy said. ‘We're very curious to come home in October and see what the world looks like at that time. So good luck to everyone.’”

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