Nationwide shutdowns in Australia over virus fears

Sydney's famous Bondi Beach is closed owing to coronavirus concerns. Photo: Getty
Sydney's famous Bondi Beach is closed owing to coronavirus concerns. Photo: Getty
Pubs, cinemas and churches will be forced to close across Australia from noon today to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The closure of more types of businesses could follow if Australians continue to fail to heed health warnings.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders agreed on Sunday night to a staged process starting with a shutdown of "principal places of social gathering".

The initial types of venues to be closed include registered and licensed clubs, entertainment venues, cinemas, casinos, nightclubs, indoor sports venues and places of worship.

Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway only.

Mr Morrison said the step had to be taken because Australians were not adequately sticking to rules around social distancing.

Virus cases are doubling every three days, but the death toll remains at seven as at Monday morning.

"We cannot have the confidence as a group of leaders that the social distancing guidelines and rules that we have put in place won't be followed to the level of compliance that we require to flatten the curve and slow the spread and save lives," Mr Morrison said.

However, parents were reassured schools would reopen after the Easter holidays, based on current medical advice.

But Victorian and ACT school holidays have already been brought forward to Tuesday.

In further action, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are imposing two-week quarantine periods on people seeking to enter these states, with police checkpoints posted to monitor travellers.

The AFL announced matches would be suspended until at least May 31.

State and territory leaders and Mr Morrison have recommended against all non-essential domestic travel, following the unprecedented ban on international travel.

WA Premier Mark McGowan announced entry to his state would be restricted via road, rail, air and sea from 1.30pm local time on Tuesday.

There will be exemptions for health, emergency, defence and policing personnel, certain mining industry workers, flight crews, essential goods deliverers and on compassionate grounds.

Unless exempted, arrivals from interstate will be ordered to self-isolate for 14 days.

In a bid to ease Australia's expected dive into recession, the federal government announced a second round of stimulus measures worth $66 billion.

It will temporarily double the Jobseeker payment - known as Newstart until last Friday - and make it easier for casuals and sole traders to access it; give a second round of $750 cash payments to pensioners; and significantly expand the already announced cash flow injection into small businesses, which will now get at least $20,000 and up to $100,000 each.

State governments have also implemented stimulus measures and are looking at other ways to ease pressure on people, including how to give renters and commercial tenants a break.

Federal parliament will sit from Monday to debate and pass laws enabling the initial two stimulus packages, with more measures expected in coming weeks.

Labor will seek to amend some of the bills, but is committed to passing the laws.

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