Speaking at a press conference following a meeting of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) the prime minister Scott Morrison has confirmed the government will be advising against mass gatherings of 500 or more people in an effort to stem the transmission of coronavirus.
Earlier in the day, the Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy advised state leaders behind closed doors that mass gatherings should be banned.
The PM has confirmed the “bans” will be effective from Monday.
Speaking to the nation at a press conference in Western Sydney, Morrison advised the government would form a national cabinet to ensure consistency across the medical response. The cabinet would be guided by health recommendations of Australia’s Health Protection Medical Committee. Morrison said the government was hoping to lower the overall risk and to mitigate the spread of the virus. He also urged all Australians to reconsider any overseas travel – advising DFAT had put into place a level three enactment regarding travel, suggesting only essential travel should proceed.
Morrison said the government was expressing an “abundance of caution” in order to act in the best interests of the nation.
“It is simply to slow the rate of transmission. Through containment mechanisms, self-isolation and trace contacts – and that is why Australia right now has low rates of transmission. But we know the cases will rise and as we continue to work together to slow the rate of transmission with support of our world-class health system, we seek to minimise the level of disruption.”
Morrison said the government was scaling its response and said there was “absolute reason for calm”.
He said the government was responding proportionally to the challenges ahead.
“Right now there is no immediate threat – but it will scale in the weeks ahead,” said the PM.
“We will move to a position by Monday, where we will advise against organised non-essential gatherings of people. It does not include schools, public transports or things of these nature.”
The PM said the government would work towards a consistent approach right across the country.
Morrison said there was now early evidence of early transmission across the community.
“It’s not widespread –it’s still not a significant risk to the Australian community
“However, the chances of spreading the virus is accelerated by large events so as a result of numbers [of transmissions] increasing over the last week, it is time to take precautionary advance measures to limit incidents of transmission.”
The PM said the government would continue to take a pragmatic and cautious approach.
He encouraged people to remain calm and work with advice at hand.
The PM suggested with advice on mass gatherings not coming into effect until Monday, he still planned to attend the football on the weekend.
“I would be going on Saturday because I had previously planned to, and these are measures we are putting on from next week,” the PM said.
Morrison suggested further precautions would come in the coming months and weeks ahead.