From midday March 23, 2020 Australia has shut down and entered a new era in its history. People have been told to not leave homes unless it is essential and there is widespread closure of businesses affecting tens of thousands of families whether they are small businesses or employees of those businesses.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said people can leave their homes, but only if it is essential. That might be to go to the shops, pharmacy or essential work.  So much so that the list of businesses ordered to close (see list below) includes gyms or fitness clubs as well. Therefore, people may exercise, but only in isolation.

In order to contain the spread of COVID-19, government leaders insist it is imperative to reduce our social interaction every day. After the Bondi Beach experience, leaders are urging Australians to behave sensibly.

“If people simply behave as normal, if they don’t take this seriously, if they act selfishly, then people will die,”  Victorian Premier Daniel Andrew said.

“I can’t be any clearer than that.”

With constantly evolving information and advice, as at the time of writing this piece, here is what Australia shut down – Stage 1 restrictions include:

Businesses ordered to close:
According to announcements made by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the following businesses  are now closed. These businesses were closed from midday on Monday because their operations allowed and encouraged people gathering against social-distancing guidelines.

The businesses are:

  • Pubs
  • Clubs
  • Cinemas
  • Casinos
  • Nightclubs
  • Indoor places of worship
  • Gyms
  • Indoor sporting venues

Businesses still open:

Major retailers and department stores and most other businesses can continue to run provided they comply with social-distancing guidelines.

Cafes and restaurants
For all those people who do not or cannot cook at home, good news is, cafes and restaurants are open but only to offer takeaway and delivery services. For the first time in our history, there will be no diners in any of the cafes and restaurants.

Speaking about food courts in shopping centres, Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner said shopping centres would remain open, but people should not sit in food courts to observe the social-distancing guidelines.

Hotels have also been allowed to continue to offer accommodation subject to the social-distancing guidelines.

Deemed essential at this stage, the following businesses will remain open:

  • Supermarkets
  • Banks
  • Petrol stations
  • Pharmacies
  • Convenience stores
  • Freight and logistics
  • Food delivery
  • Bottle shops

 Social-distancing – Critical

All businesses which continue to operate, must observe social-distancing guidelines – that is:

  • keeping people 1.5 metres apart;
  • ensuring 4 square metres per person; and
  • not have gatherings of more than 100 people indoors.

Businesses are advised to make whatever adjustments they need to make to their work practices so that these guidelines are adhered to.

Hairdressers and beauticians

Although it is incongruous but at this stage, hairdressers and beauticians can stay open if they comply with social-distancing guidelines. How would a hairdresser style someone’s hair maintaining 1.5 meter distance – is anybody’s guess.

Australian beauticians face a huge challenge to do a facial or manicure – and observing social-distancing guidelines at the same time.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has already flagged off the possibility of more draconian restrictions which may be forthcoming under “stage two”.

Schools and childcare centres:

Schools and childcare centres remain open until the school holidays, though some states including Victoria have brought forward the end of 1st term holidays.

Some experts fear the schools may have closed for a lot longer than their allocated spans. Such is the fear gripping the communities caused by Australia shut down, the messages on schools from various state governments have been mixed, thus confusing.

In Victoria, Premier Daniel Andrews decided to bring the term 1 break forward closing all public schools in the state from Tuesday, 24 March.

While Queensland is officially keeping schools open, the attendance rates have come down dramatically.

In NSW, schools are open but parents are being told to keep their children home unless they have no other option.

Authorities are working out plans to ready their online materials to continue the curriculum if schools are shut.

In the longer term, the schools are working to go online for instructions and this may be something which will stay well after the pandemic crisis is over or under control.

As the leaders are predicting more stringent measures may be on the way, this Australia shut down may look a lot simple if things take a real bad turn. Every Australian has to be responsible and must adhere to all the measures the experts are asking them to observe.

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