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Non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people effectively banned across Australia

Non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people effectively banned across Australia
March 13, 2020

Non-essential public gatherings of more than 500 people are to be effectively banned across Australia as the government attempts to prevent the spread of Coronavirus (Covid-19).

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders are calling for the suspension of mass gatherings to be effective from Monday 16th March, following advice given by Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting today (Friday 13th March).

The ban will see crowds denied access to a number of sports and cultural events.

The Australian Formula One Grand Prix had already been cancelled this morning as fears mounted over the exposure of fans to the virus. Up to 300,000 spectators were expected to file into the race track in Melbourne over the weekend.

Fans were also banned from Australia's one day international cricket match with New Zealand in Sydney today, forcing the teams to play behind closed doors.

Questions about crowd attendance have also been hanging over NRL, Football and AFL matches.

Prime Minister Morrison advised "there was growing evidence of greater community transmission of the Coronavirus throughout Australia. The goal here is very straightforward. It is simply to slow the rate of transmission of the Coronavirus within Australia.”

Professor Murphy highlighted that “all international evidence suggests that if you have some community transmission, the way in which it can be spread more rapidly is in very large events.

“You might only have one or two people at a very large event who might be carrying the virus, and the chance of it being spread out those large events accelerates the rate of progression.”

As the number of Coronavirus cases in Australia nears 200, authorities said the speed at which the pandemic is spreading is too great to not act immediately.

Cultural venues such as the Sydney Opera House and Arts Centre Melbourne are likely to close their doors as both are multi-venue buildings with their largest auditoriums seating more than 1000 people.

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival, due to start later this month, today announced the event was cancelled, while the Sydney Writers Festival has suspended ticket sales.

Details during today's press conference were scarce, leaving a number of promoters and event organisers uncertain on how to proceed.

According to The Music Network (TMN), among the Australian promoters impacted is Bluesfest Festival Director Peter Noble. In a statement posted on Facebook, the Byron Bay festival advised that it is now awaiting the “official requirements” from authorities on Monday before it updates ticket holders.

Live Performance Australia (LPA) are seeking urgent clarification on the details of the announcement, in particular, ‘advice’ versus a ‘government directive’, the timeframe for the advice and the details of implementation.

LPA Chief Executive Evelyn Richardson said in a statement that “the government needs to provide a clear directive as other jurisdictions have done so industry and the public are very clear about what this means.

Richardson told TMN “the industry needs to be able to plan and communicate to its audience, artists and staff with confidence in this very difficult time.

“The flow-on effects of this are huge which is why this morning we called on the Federal Government to urgently work on a plan to support industry immediately, both in the short term and as part of the recovery phase.”

A number of promoters, who spoke to TMN on the condition of anonymity, said ticket sales had slowed considerably this week.

Australians are also being urged not to travel overseas amid coronavirus fears with Prime Minister Morrison adding that "only essential travel should be considered if you are going overseas from this point forward.”

The Federal Government has extended its travel bans to foreign nationals coming from China, Italy, Iran and South Korea. Prime Minister Morrison stated that health officials had not requested an extension of those bans to include other countries, despite the spread of the virus globally.

The cancellation of mass gatherings would not be extended to schools, universities, public transport or airports with Prime Minister Morrison noting "Parliament is essential. Going to school is essential. Going to work is essential. Going and getting about your normal business, going to university lectures, and taking your kids to preschool, these things will continue.”

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