Press Conference - Australian Parliament House, ACT

18 Mar 2020
Prime Minister

PRIME MINISTER: Good morning everyone. Life is changing in Australia, as it is changing all around the world. Life is going to continue to change as we deal with the global coronavirus. This is a once in a hundred year type event, we haven't seen this sort of thing in Australia since the end of the First World War.

But together we are, of course, up to this challenge. All Australians, governments, health workers, teachers, nurses, journalists, broadcasters, mums, dads, kids, grandparents, aged care workers. We're all up to this. We're all able to deal with this, but we just need to continue to keep our heads, focusing on the right information, making good decisions, helping and supporting each other each and every day to make the changes that are very necessary as we deal with this very real situation.

We are going to keep Australia running. We are going to keep Australia functioning. It won't look like it normally does but it is very important that we continue to put in place measures that are scalable and sustainable. There is no two-week answer to what we're confronting. There is no short-term quick fix to how this is dealt with in Australia. The idea that you can just turn everything off for two weeks and then just turn it all back on again and it all goes away, that is not the evidence. That is not the facts. That is not the information and it's not our way through this. And it's not what you see in the measures that we've already announced and the measures that we will continue to announce.

They need to be scalable and they need to be sustainable. As I said on the weekend, we are looking at a situation of at least six months for how we deal with this. It could be much longer than that. It could be shorter. That's unlikely, given the way we're seeing events unfold. So what we're doing you've got to be able to keep doing and you've got to be able to sustain that. And that has to be something that is achievable for all Australians, so we can keep our country running in the best possible way in the interest of all Australians.

We also need to continue to work together and I want to thank again in particular the State and Territory Premiers and Chief Ministers - I'll come to their decisions in a moment. But the cooperation, the collaboration, the support, the candidness and the way people are working together in a true spirit of national unity is exactly - exactly - what you would hope to be seeing from all of your national and state and territory leaders. And I thank them very much for their support and their leadership as we work through these difficult decisions and as we seek to relay them to the Australian people in the most simple way that we possibly can.

We are taking action across a broad range of issues. Obviously, the first of those is the health response, which is comprehensive, and every resource that is necessary to support that health resource at a Commonwealth, State and Territory level is being provided and I think Australians can be very confident about that and we're continuing to coordinate the deployment of that resource. That includes into aged care facilities and other areas where health services are being provided.

But we're also dealing very seriously with the very significant economic impacts. And as the measures that are put in place, as the protections are put in place to protect people's health, they obviously have, in some cases, quite severe economic implications as Australians sadly are already experiencing, particularly in areas that are in the most hit sectors, in the travel, the tourism sector, the aviation sector, places like this, the external sector which has been feeling it first because they were the first to impact from the travel bans and the shut down of global movements. But that is spreading more broadly across the economy. In essential and critical services is another area where the national coordinating mechanism, what's that? That is the Department of Home Affairs working with the states and territories, working across everything from supply chains into supermarkets, to ensure the continued support of telecommunications and essential services and energy and fuel supplies and all of these issues. My ministers have been working on those issues for days, working with the sectors to ensure we're on top of all of those issues and the reports there, so far, are encouraging.

And thirdly, in workforce management. This is critical. Wherever possible, we need to keep Australians working. Working on the essential services and the economy that Australians need to get through this. And this is a critical - a critical - issue in ensuring Australia can keep functioning and importantly keep delivering the important services that are necessary, which at the end of the day mean that we can support the most vulnerable in our community who are at most risk from the effects of the coronavirus.

Now, as you've heard me say many times and you've heard Dr. Murphy say on many occasions, for most people, those of us who are blessed with good health and are in good condition, then this is a mild condition. For the more vulnerable, for the elderly, for those who have other health challenges, this is a far more serious condition for them. And so it is important that we who are healthy, those of us who will contract this and experience a mild illness, that we do what we can to limit the spread to ensure that those who are more vulnerable are not affected. If we slow the spread then we do save lives, and that is very much the strategy the governments of Australia are following as we move through this crisis.

Now, the National Security Committee met yesterday, before the National Cabinet. They made a number of decisions, one of those has been enacted this morning by the Governor-General, and that is that a human biosecurity emergency was declared under the Biosecurity Act by the Governor-General, and that regards the recognition of the threat, the coronavirus, and the need for the Federal Government to take actions under the Health Minister and myself as Prime Minister in relation to limiting that spread. Now, I don't want people to be alarmed about this. This is what these measures in the Biosecurity Act are for. You have already seen, as I said on Sunday, that states and territories have been enacting the similar powers that they have under their various public health legislation to put similar arrangements in place. All of those arrangements are now in place in the states and territories and we have rounded that out this morning by ensuring that those measures are now in place and approved by the Governor-General.

Secondly, we are upgrading the travel ban on Australians to level four for the entire world. That is the first time that has ever happened in Australia's history. The travel advice to every Australian is do not travel abroad. Do not go overseas. That is a very clear instruction. For those of you who are thinking of going overseas in the school holidays, don't. Don't go overseas. The biggest risk we've had and the biggest incidence of cases which we've had, which Dr. Murphy can go into, has been from Australians returning from overseas. From many countries that you wouldn't have expected that to be a source. And so it is very important that Australians do not travel abroad at this time. And that is an indefinite ban, but as you are seeing from other countries around the world, they're putting similar restrictions on entry, just as Australia has on others coming into Australia, and you would expect that to be in place now and that's the stage we've reached.

Thirdly, yesterday, and you would have seen this announced last night, we put in place waivers of a series of aviation-related charges and they'll be waived out over the next six months from the 1st of April with a rebate on those that have been paid back from the 1st of February. This will provide much-needed support for our aviation sector who has been the hardest hit from these arrangements, as you've seen from the various announcements from our major airlines, but don't forget the smaller regional airlines as well. They're also hit by this. So things like regional security fees in regional airports on those regional airlines, they are being waived as well. They don't necessarily change the world for those airlines, but they do provide some support at a very difficult time for those airlines who are dealing with issues of staffing in their organisations and how they're supporting those staff at this time.

We have also made a decision yesterday to lift the restriction on work constraints on student nurses who are in Australia. That's some 20,000 international student nurses who are in Australia, have been in Australia for some time. We're not importing the nurses into Australia, that would obviously be against the travel advice and bans that already have been in place for some time. But those 20,000 student nurses that we have in Australia, they're going to be available to help and support the health effort right across the country, as directed by our health officials and they can be engaged for that purpose.

Now, the National Cabinet met last night, as I said, til quite late in the evening, it was a late night here and for them around the country. They received advice from the AHPPC and they've made the following decisions and there will be further decisions to come at the next meeting of the National Cabinet, which is on Friday. The decisions they have made is to put a ban on gatherings, for non-essential gatherings, a ban on non-essential gatherings, of persons of 100 or greater. So a ban on non-essential gatherings of persons 100 and greater in indoor areas. So in outdoor areas, it's 500. Indoor areas, it's 100. And that is effective now, as of today, and those arrangements in terms of the legal enforcement of those measures are being put in place by the states and territories.

Now, fair question is, well, what is an essential gathering? So as to define what is a non-essential gathering. Well, there is a baseline that has been established amongst the National Cabinet, which reflected in a lot of the legislation that was put in in relation to the outdoor ban. And that's an airport, public transportation, which includes public transportation facilities such as stations, platform, stops, trains, trams, buses, etc. These are essential. Medical and health service facilities, emergency service facilities, disability or aged care facilities - I’ll be coming to aged care and the constraints we're putting on aged care shortly. Correctional facilities, youth justice centres or other places of custody, courts or tribunals, Parliaments, food markets, supermarket, grocery store, retail store, shopping centre that is necessary for the normal business of those premises, office buildings, factories, construction sites, mining sites necessary for their normal operation.

Now, particularly when we're talking about workplaces, I want to commend the employers of Australia, whether they're in the offices of our capital cities or elsewhere, who are already putting in place quite sensible rostering arrangements in their workplaces, as indeed public service employers are doing as well, and I'm quite sure that amongst the media you're doing similar things, which is sensible. That does two things. It ensures social distancing practices are being followed in the workplace, but equally it is changing the strain and providing for greater social distancing on essential travel, particularly in public transport and things of that nature. This also relates to schools, universities, education facilities and child care facilities, hotels and motels and other accommodation facilities, which can include things like mining camps and other places where people are transiting. So, in the Bourke Street Mall, Federation Square, Martin Place, those types of places. They are essential places, where there are essential gatherings. Non-essential is everything else. States and territories have the ability to add to those lists as they see fit based on the advice, and we're obviously seeking to coordinate that.

I apologise for the length that I've got to go through here, but there's a lot of things that were decided and it's important that we convey that information. Further measures on gatherings indoor of less than 100 people are being worked on by the states and territories in terms of their practical implication. I want to commend the Premiers and Chief Ministers for this. We together want to be very sure that when we say there will be a limitation, then we need to be able to explain it to ensure that the rules are very clear for people to follow. We can put in place a rule for 100 indoors. It's fairly straightforward. We can also put in place a rule for 500 people outdoors, that can be followed. But the other issue that we need to follow is the principle of social distancing, whatever gathering you're in. As you can see, Dr. Murphy and I are practicing social distancing right now. I'd suggest the rest of you might want to think about that as well. It's important that we try and observe those social distancing practices, which is a metre and a half apart, wherever that is practicable to ensure that we can contain and limit the spread of the virus. So those principles are very important.

On travel, what we have agreed is that the advice is that air travel, domestic air travel, is low risk. We have, as Dr. Murphy will be able to I'm sure tell you, we have not seen a lot of evidence of people contracting this virus on aircraft. It's when they've arrived, or where they brought it from. And so the issue is not people, necessarily, being on planes as a great risk. The issue is people moving around the country. Now, to that end, states and territories working together with their health advisors, there are parts of this country that it would not be wise for people to visit. Just as it is important for people not to be visiting aged care facilities in large numbers, it is also important that they’re not visiting remote indigenous communities or remote parts of the country. And there are other parts of the country that are similarly sensitive. Now, we are working on a list of those areas that can be declared with the states and territories, and that will be driven by the states and territories because they have the best information on what the sensitivities are. So it's not about going on a plane or not going on a plane. It's about where you are going to. And there'll be further advice and there'll be further information on that that will be provided in the days ahead as those issues are finalised. But in places like the Northern Territory, Minister Gunner, the Chief Minister, there is already taking action on those issues appropriately and I commend him for doing that.

In relation to schools. Schools… so on public transport, I should say, that remains essential travel but social distancing should be sought to be practiced wherever possible, and that also means that the states are already putting in place proper hygiene processes in terms of cleaning of public transport. If you're getting in a cab or in an Uber, sit in the backseat, don't sit in the front seat. These are just sensible things that people should be following and Dr. Murphy can talk more to those or if you have any further questions on that.

The health advice is that schools should remain open. That is the health advice. Interestingly, this is also what Singapore has done. Singapore has been one of the more successful countries. In Singapore, the schools are open. In Singapore, they've been quite effective in managing and limiting the transmission of this virus in that country. The health advice here, supported by all the Premiers, all the Chief Ministers and my Government is that schools should remain open.

Now, there are a number of reasons for this, and Dr. Murphy will particularly go into this. The first one is that the virus operates very differently amongst younger people. It has a different manifestation amongst younger people and that presents a very different health challenge to the broader population. And so in terms of the health and welfare of our children, many of us here are parents and obviously we are concerned about the health of our kids. And the health advice that I'm happy to follow for my kids, for Jenny and my kids, is the same health advice I am asking all other parents around the country to follow. We all love our kids and there's nothing we wouldn't do for them. And I'm telling you that, as a father, I'm happy for my kids to go to school. There's only one reason your kids shouldn't be going to school and that is if they are unwell. And as parents you are in the best position to know if your children are unwell. Don't leave it to the teacher to work that out when they arrive, or the school administrator, or whoever is on drop off. Make sure if your child is unwell, that you are taking action to keep your child out of school. That's your responsibility. Schools will obviously try and operate to their best ability to limit children who may come who are unwell, but let's not forget our responsibility as parents in this process. And Brendan can say more about that.

So, that's the health issue. There are also, please know this, whatever we do, we've got to do for at least six months. Six months. So that means the disruption that would occur from the closure of schools around this country, make no mistake, would be severe. What do I mean by severe? Tens of thousands of jobs could be lost, if not more. The impact on the availability of health workers? A 30 per cent impact on the availability of health workers is our advice. That will put people's lives at risk. So let's keep our heads as parents when it comes to this. Let's do the right thing by the country and by each other and follow the proper advice. There is a national public interest here in keeping schools open, and our advice is that is not being done at the detriment of the health of any child. If that was different then obviously, and if that became different, then Premiers and Chief Ministers and I would certainly come to a different view. But right now that is the advice and we need to ensure that when we're putting these scalable and sustainable measures in place that we are doing things that improve the situation, not worsen the situation and lessen our capacity to deal with this.

Now, aged care. Some very sensible recommendations, and I know these will be difficult. Having been through this experience in my own family recently, I know this could be very difficult for families. The following visitors and staff, including visiting workers, should not be permitted, will not be permitted to enter an aged care facility:

  • Obviously, those who’ve returned from overseas in the last 14 days.
  • Those have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
  • Those with fever or symptoms or acute respiratory infection symptoms.
  • Those who have not been vaccinated against influenza after the first of May.

The facility must also implement the following measures for restricting visits and visitors to reduce the risk of transmission to residents:

  • Limiting visits to a short duration.
  • Limiting visits to a maximum of two visitors at one time per day. These may be immediate social supports, family members, close friends or professional service or advocacy workers.
  • Visits should be conducted in a residents room, outdoors or in a specific area designated by the facility rather than communal areas where the risk of transmission to other residents is greater.
  • There should be no large group visits or gatherings, including social activities or entertainment, to be permitted at this time.
  • No school groups of any size should be allowed to visit aged care facilities.
  • Visitors should also be encouraged, as all Australians are, to practice social distancing where possible, including maintaining the distance of one and a half metres.
  • Children aged 16 years or less should be visiting only by exception, as they generally, it says they, kids won’t necessarily follow the hygiene measures all the time like adults will.

Any parent will understand that, but also children can be asymptomatic and so they may be no knowledge of whether the child has been exposed to the virus or has the virus or not. And so that is just a sensible thing, it's about protecting the residents at the end of the day.

Now, in cases of end of life, I know that people will want to see their elderly parents or relatives or others. I totally understand that. And aged care facilities will have the discretion to put in very strict arrangements to enable people to visit their loved ones if that's the situation that that resident finds themselves in. Those rules will have to be done on a facility by facility basis and obviously it needs to conform with the general principles around social distancing and the other measures that I've outlined. But in those cases we all know how distressing that can be and so the aged care facilities will be asked to put in place sensible arrangements to facilitate those types of visits on a compassionate basis.

ANZAC Day. It was a busy night, as you can see. ANZAC Day, well, this has largely already been determined by RSLs around the country, but ANZAC Day events and ceremonies should be cancelled due to the high proportion of older Australians who attend such events. But there will be a televised national event here in Canberra, at the War Memorial. States and territories may also do one without public gatherings as well, which can also be available for broadcast, and that will enable people to be able to join those services at least remotely on what is one of the most important days, if not the most important day of the year, for Australians as we honour those. And it will be quite a solemn day because the last time, as I said, we're in a situation like this, it's after our diggers returned from World War One.

Now, on bulk purchasing of supplies. Stop hoarding. I can't be more blunt about it. Stop it. It's not sensible, it's not helpful and I've got to say it's been one of the most disappointing things I've seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis. That is not who we are as a people. It is not necessary. It is not something that people should be doing. What it does is it is distracting attention and efforts that need to be going into other measures to be focusing on how we maintain supply chains into these shopping centres. There is no reason for people to be hoarding supplies in fear of a lockdown or anything like this. As I've said, we're putting in place scalable and sustainable measures. I'll read you specifically what the AHPPC has said to ensure that there is absolutely no confusion. “The AHPPC advises against the bulk purchase of foods, medicines and other goods. We discourage the panic purchase of food and other supplies.”

I am seeking Australia's common sense cooperation with these very clear advisory positions. Stop doing it. It's ridiculous. It's un-Australian, and it must stop. And I would ask people to do the right thing by each other in getting a handle on these sorts of practices.

Also, do not abuse staff. We're all in this together. People are doing their jobs. They're doing their best. Whether they're at a testing clinic this morning, whether they're in a shopping center, whether they're at a bank, whether they're at a train station, everybody is doing their best. So, let's just support each other in the work that they are doing. And I encourage you please, if you see someone who's doing that, just call it out and ask them to just refrain from doing that. That's the right thing to do.

Now, moving on to the other matters that I had to raise today, then I’ll throw to Brendan. The Government is considering, quite extensively, further economic measures that will deal with the strength and the strengthening of our safety net and cushioning the even greater impact of the coronavirus on the Australian economy, particularly on small businesses and individuals. Last week, we focused very much on the stimulus-type activity. Encouraging investment, encouraging demand into the economy, providing support to small business. The measures that we are focusing on now are of a different nature. They are focused more on the cushioning impact of the safety net for individuals and on small businesses. The Reserve Bank has been involved in our discussions on those issues. They’ll obviously make those decisions independently as is appropriate, but we are putting in place further measures and we will announce them once they've been properly designed, and they can be properly implemented. We are not delaying, we are moving with great haste on this. But we're doing it carefully to ensure we get the design of those measures right so they can be implemented as quickly as possible and provide that support.

On the health side of things, 80,000 tests have now been completed, and we've been able to source additional supplies of tests, testing kits, which is very welcome and further supplies are being secured, and that includes having domestic solutions to the supply issues that relates to the testing equipment. The same is true for personal protective equipment, and that does include and I want to thank those in the Defence Forces, they have also been very helpful with supply chains and logistics and other measures that we're working on now. As we found during the bushfires, they are an amazing group of people who are able to come up with some incredibly innovative solutions and they have been worked on particularly when it comes to supply chain measures around personal protective equipment. All of that means though that while, yes, we may have been able to successfully secure additional supplies, when it comes to medical supplies, when it comes to personal protective equipment, when it comes to testing, it's important to follow the rules around these. These are critical resources, they shouldn't be used where it's unnecessary to use them, and I would encourage people to continue to follow those practices.

Finally, you'll be pleased to know, there's a lot of misinformation out there. There's a lot of ridiculous stuff circulating on text messages and the internet about lockdowns and all of this and sadly, there's even been cases of wilful fraud and misrepresentation and fraudulent preparation of documents, even recordings, alleging to represent Cabinet meetings and things of this nature. Don't believe it, it's rubbish. Go to Go to the relevant state health websites to get your information on what's happening. Avoid all that nonsense that you're seeing on social media. There are a million experts, it seems, but the experts that the Government is relying on, one of the most important is standing next to me here and now, all of the state Premiers and Chief Ministers and myself are working with those experts, whether it's in supply chains, whether it's in workforce management, whether it's in health, whether it's in power or telecommunications, they're the people we're getting our information from. We’ll continue to update you as regularly as is possible with clear decisions on what we're doing, but on the misinformation - just ignore it. If you hear it from me, if you hear it from a Premier, if you hear it from Dr. Murphy, if you hear it from those official sources and websites, that's the information you should follow. If you’re hearing it from someone just saying whatever pops into their head or whatever their opinion is on a particular topic - opinions are interesting but everybody has them. Facts are important. Information is what we need to make proper decisions on and you need to make property decisions on, and that's why we'll give you the information as best we can and as regularly as we can. I thank you for your patience and I'll now pass over to Dr. Murphy.

DR. BRENDAN MURPHY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: Thanks, Prime Minister. So there are now about 454 cases of COVID-19 in Australia and we do, we have increasing numbers each day. But it is important to remember that the majority of cases in Australia, majority of new cases, are still imported cases or direct contacts of imported cases. And our focus for those is still the same. We are getting on top of them, identifying them, isolating them, contact tracing, that remains a very, very important part of our response across every state and territory.

But we know that there is community transmission. It is low level at the moment and we know that the way to control community transmission is social distancing. The AHPPC meant for two days this week, and like the Prime Minister said, we have a unanimity of opinion across this country. Every state and territory Chief Health Officer, plus our invited experts, plus our advisory technical committees are united on our approach.

Social distancing is really important to prevent delay transmission in the community of this virus over coming months. But be clear, a short term 2-4 week shutdown of society is not recommended by any of our experts. It does not achieve anything. We have to be in this for the long haul. As the Prime Minister said, it could be six months, more, that we have to practice these new ways of interacting. So therefore our measures have to be sustainable. There is no way that we can lock down society, make everyone stay home, and then in a month’s time undo that because the virus will just flare up again without any real long-term benefit. So we have to have sustainable measures, but they have to be serious measures. They have to be effective and that's why we've put in a range of measures that the Prime Minister has outlined with more information to come later.

But the first thing I would say is that it is every individual Australian’s responsibility to practice good social distancing. Keep away from each other where possible, practice really good hand hygiene, wash your hands with soap and water at every opportunity you get, if you've been on public transport, if you’ve been touching things that in a common area, if before and after going to the toilet, if you've been having a meal. Social distancing and hand hygiene is really, really important. But we also have to do things at a societal level, and that's why we've put in those recommendations that governments have accepted to restrict non-essential gatherings. We know that the actual numbers of infected people in our society is very low now, but if you get a lot of people together in close contact that's the way you can spread the virus. So we need to avoid those large gatherings and limit them, but we also have to keep society functioning. So we are very focused on these measures being sustainable and allowing us to keep going as a nation whilst this virus is with us.

I'd like to specifically address schools. In China, only 2.4 per cent of the cases reported in Hubei province were in people under 19. Children have very, very few instances of clinical disease and even if they do, of even more severe disease. This is quite different to influenza and other respiratory viruses which have quite severe disease sometimes in children. We know that if, even in influenza, school closures are a controversial issue. We believe very strongly that it's in the best interest of our children and the nation at this time to keep schools open. There may be occasions when there's a big outbreak in a community that some local school closures might be necessary, but at this time across the community our view is that schools should stay open.

Now, there obviously are measures that we can take to reduce potential transmission in schools. It's interesting in China that, again, most of the children who are infected were reported as having picked up the virus from adults in their household. But we don't know whether children may be a vector of asymptomatic or transmission with low levels of symptoms. So we need to make sure that our schools are made as safe as possible. We need to make sure that no sick child goes to school. We need to make sure that no sick teacher goes to school. We need to try and avoid large assemblies and other gatherings at schools. We know also that it's not really possible for children in a classroom to keep 1.5 metres apart from each other and we know that we've got to be practical about that. But schools should practice very good hand hygiene too. Very hard to do in the school, but we can trust our teachers to do it. Children should be washing their hands regularly, particularly when they're eating, and particularly when they're touching common areas. So it'll be hard for schools, but it would be much, much, much harder for society if our schools were closed. We want our children to be looked after in schools, if they were at home, we know that they probably wouldn't stay at home, they would probably congregate anyway and if transmission were occurring it would happen, or they may be looked after by vulnerable elderly relatives who are the people we are worried about.

As the Prime Minister has said, most people with this virus have a mild disease. The people we worried most about our elderly. That's why we've taken these measures in relation to restricting visits to aged care. But there’s no sense in completely locking down aged care. Again, things you could do for a month and then stop would have no long-term benefit. We've got to protect our elderly for the long haul, for six months, and you cannot completely deny access to an elderly person in a residential facility to their closest next of kin, but we've got to make sure that those interactions are safe, very limited, and again with good social distancing. 

So my final message is every citizen now has to think about every interaction they have with another person during the day. No more handshaking, no more hugging, no more - except in your family, you can do that in your family, because you're already close to your family - no more scant attention to hand hygiene, wash your hands all the time, use hand sanitiser, and just practice sensible practices. And also, as the Prime Minister has said, we are in a situation now where there are mainly important cases, small numbers, there is no need for us to be in a state of heightened anxiety, but we do need to be prepared, and we all need to practice this social distancing. Thank you.


JOURNALIST: Could we get a bit of clarity for religious groups, churches, synagogues, mosques, on how these rules pertain to them? And also, what's your view of the footy, should it go ahead with empty stadiums, both the AFL and NRL?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, first of all, the rule is quite clear. Internal gatherings of no more than a hundred people. And so churches, mosques, synagogues, or others, should comply with that. Before the end of this week, we'll be considering further the rules that are established amongst smaller gatherings. There are very practical issues that we have to work through there, and the states are working on that right now. We would also suggest, as I'm sure Dr. Murphy would agree, that you would practice the sort of appropriate social distancing in those types of arrangements, and that means they're having separation and distance between people who are seated, except for amongst family groups, that might be in any of these places.

I know church, I know in my own experience, my church is putting in place practices. I mean, some are moving to online type services and things like that, and that's a sensible practical measure I think that people can put in place. When it comes to the, whether it's the AFL, the NRL or any others, that's a decision for them to make in accordance to the rules that have been established - no gatherings of more than 500, no internal gatherings of 100 or more, and there'll be other measures that will follow. So they need to make their own decisions about how they manage that. We'll focus on our responsibilities as Prime Ministers, Chief Ministers and Premiers, and the Commissioners of the NRL and the AFL can make their decisions based on what they believe is best for their game. But they must comply, obviously, which they will, with all the health rules and guidelines that are being established.

Sorry, can we just everyone, just… yep.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, is it necessary for the states to enforce new laws to stop hoarding?


JOURNALIST: Hoarding. To stop hoarding.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, look we'll continue to... What I want to welcome is the practical responses that have been put in place by the supermarkets themselves. I think that's sensible. I think putting in the arrangements for elderly to be able to visit shopping centers and things like that and supermarkets. That's just good common sense and I would encourage them to continue to do those sorts of things. I would at first appeal to Australians to do the right thing. Obviously, there are measures that could be moved towards if we had to do that, but to be honest, I'd be very disappointed if we had to do something like that. I think Australians are better than that.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you’ve said that this is going to go for about six months, maybe more, can you rule out there's not going to be any widespread school closure in that time?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, no, we can't do that. Right now schools should remain open. That is the clear and crystal health advice from the AHPPC and that is the clear and unified position of all the states and territories, Premiers, Chief Ministers and myself. These situations will be monitored on a regular basis. The AHPPC meets every day. Premiers and Chief Ministers at this week will have met on three occasions. My Ministers are meeting every day on these types of issues. I'll be having further discussions today with independent schools, Catholic schools, and others, about these arrangements and talking them through with them. School holidays are coming up soon, and then schools will reopen after school holidays, that was the clear position of the Premiers and Chief Ministers and so this is an issue we’ll constantly continue to monitor but when it comes to managing this, it is about being scalable and sustainable. Any measure you put in place, you must be prepared to put it in place for at least six months - it could be longer, and that means you've got to do it and make sure that you continue to to have a functioning country. Phil.

JOURNALIST: Travelling overseas, is it likely or possible you may tighten the restrictions on people entering the country, either citizens abroad or non-citizens beyond the 14 day isolation period?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, that is possible, and I frankly though, practically it'll largely do that on its own, because the whole world is doing basically the same thing we are. So the great risk now and the actions that we have taken on our borders to-date have been very effective, and that has put us in the advantaged position we are in right now. But this challenge now, as it inevitably was going to when you reach global pandemic phases, remember we called a global pandemic, and it was particularly Dr. Murphy you did more than two weeks out from the WHO. So we started on that basis. Now the challenge now is moving from the border to the community, and managing how this is done in the community. So things about the 500 limit, the 100 limit, and other rules that would come from that. That’s about managing this in the community, and that's where a lot of the focus is and that's why the National Cabinet has become so important, because up until the other week, well issues of borders and so on is the clear province and domain of the Federal Government, but once you start moving to managing issues in the community, it needs much greater coordination between the states and territories. And I can't underline to you enough how important the Premiers and Chief Ministers feel it is to have a consistent application of what they're doing across all their jurisdictions. They're very committed to this and they're very committed to supporting each other in this, and I think that is to be commended. Yeah, Andrew. And I’ll come over -

JOURNALIST: You talked before about hardening up defences of remote Indigenous communities. Pat Turner, she’s on the Indigenous Advisory Board of COVID-19, she's been saying that the system chronic shortages of PPE equipment, swabs and test equipment, and there's a lack of advice on combating the disease. Perhaps this one's for you Dr. Murphy, but what can you, what assurances can you give that suppliers will get that? And I also want to flag that when you've exhausted questions about, on COVID-19, I would like to ask about 4 Corners and the SAS video, but we can do that -

PRIME MINISTER: Well I might come back to that on another occasion Andrew, to be honest, I mean, I think there's a lot of questions on COVID-19, and I have a Cabinet meeting to go to. So I'm happy to deal with those issues outside the press conference.

DR. MURPHY: So on PPE, we know that internationally there are shortages. We have a very aggressive procurement program, the Minister for Health has been driving that. We are getting significant new stocks of PPE and we will make it available as necessary. Some people are anxious that they don't have reserve stocks, but we're obviously have to keep control of our stocks, and we have an active program with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander response led out of the Health Department by one of our senior doctors, and there's a lot of work that's been happening. And Pat Turner and her team have been involved with that. So we know that there's anxiety about PPE, but we are getting lots of PPE in, and we are even looking at the Prime Minister's direction, at local manufacturing. So we need to be prepared, but we cannot waste what we've got at the moment.


JOURNALIST: Obviously, have symptoms or not have symptoms and be contagious as well.


JOURNALIST: Adults can obviously be asymptomatic as well, and we've seen in the last 24 hours confirmation that a Liberal Party donor who attended a Liberal Party fundraiser last Tuesday night, with you and Peter Dutton, before Peter Dutton was exhibiting symptoms, has now contracted the illness. Now of course, he doesn't know exactly how that occurred, but the only known contact he had, who had the coronavirus was Mr. Dutton. Do you think now out of an abundance of caution that it is worth yourself being tested, Cabinet being tested, just to ensure that you know, there is nobody who is actually spreading that within the community, having potentially contracted it from Peter Dutton?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the Cabinet is following the same rules as every other Australian. I mean, last night I had a medical checkup and my health is being checked on a regular basis, by one of the doctors here. And that involves the normal things that you’d expect and if I'm advised by my doctor to get a test then I will. What I'm saying is, is that there can't be one rule for me, and another rule for the rest of the country. Our testing equipment is an important resource and I'll follow the rules like everybody else. I've already put in place arrangements with the Cabinet. We're meeting now virtually, and we're not gathering the Cabinet all together in one room. The contact tracing on that event has already been undertaken and so where that has led to the need for tests to be undertaken where people are exhibiting symptoms and have had contact, then people will undertake those tests. There have been a number of Cabinet Members who have had tests, not in relation to that incident specifically, but where they have satisfied the case definition, which has been set out by the Chief Medical Officer, and I can assure you in all of these cases where there has been a question arise as to whether that should be done, we’ve consulted either the Chief Medical Officer or the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, and I'll just keep taking their advice on what's the most important thing to do, and I’d encourage all Australians to do the same thing. But I was pleased that I got a good tick last night from the doc, and I appreciate that, but I intend to see him fairly regularly in the weeks ahead, because I intend to stay as fit and active as possible.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, how do you characterise the number of cases in Australia? And how do you characterize the future trajectory? Are you seeing what you expected?

DR. MURPHY: There is no clear expectation. I think at the moment,  our, as I said, we are seeing a growth in case numbers, and they are obviously concerning, but as I also said, they are still largely fueled by important cases. We expect imported cases, as international travel declines to drop significantly. The challenge is to reduce those community transmission that we're seeing, in small pockets at the moment, and that's what the social distancing is about. So obviously every increase in cases concerns us. We would be more concerned if the increases were all community transmission, but even with imported cases, that presents opportunities for further communities transmission and we are concerned in getting on top of it. But there's no right, there's no one prediction that you can make.

PRIME MINISTER: Let’s go to the back here and then over here, and then over to Kath. We’ll try and get through as many questions as possible.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you mentioned six months. We're already seeing industries struggle. We're seeing parents anxious, people lose their jobs, people fighting in supermarkets, mental health charities are saying they're seeing a spike in services as a direct result of this virus.


JOURNALIST: How as the Federal Government, can you as your primary job, keep Australians calm?

PRIME MINISTER: This is what we're doing here right now. Making good decisions based on good advice and communicating them as clearly as we possibly can, and to keep focusing on the issues we need to make decisions on every day. We are meeting every day in either in full Cabinet or groups of Cabinet Ministers and Ministers, and working with industry groups, working with all the bodies that you're talking about, identifying the issues that are starting to present. This thing that is moving very, very quickly. Engaging with international leaders, and we've had quite a bit of progress in the last couple of days, particularly on moving towards a meeting of the G20 Finance Ministers meeting and central bankers. The Reserve Bank is considering measures over the course of the next sort of 24-48 hours. We're staying on this. We got ahead, but you've got to work very hard to stay ahead. We’re learning from every bit of advice we can, we can, we can get, and we're keeping people together. And again, the National Cabinet is so important in a coordinated national response to these events. I hope, and it is certainly all of our hopes, as members of that National Cabinet, that Australians would take confidence from that. That all issues of politics, and doesn't matter, what party you're in in that National Cabinet - there are five Labor members and there are four Liberals - and we are working together as one united team to do with the issues that are, that we have been sworn in to deal with. You know, when you go down to the Governor General, or you go to your State Governor and you take an oath to say you're going to do the right thing by the people of your state or the people of your nation, that's what we're doing, and you're seeing that exhibited in the way that this National Cabinet working together.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on communication, you've acknowledged that false information is gaining significant momentum online. Do you actually have, and would you implement some kind of proactive coordinated communications strategy to target and basically refute some of those claims, or are you still relying on people just finding their way through the that, which by most accounts, is fairly un-user friendly?

PRIME MINISTER: Well that's your view. What we will continue to do is upgrade our communications campaign and ensure that we're getting the best possible information to people out, and that campaign is being upgraded on a daily basis in terms of how it can respond to some of the issues. It's disappointing that we would have to try and refute and correct a lot of the information that is out there, and I just simply appeal to media to ensure that they're going to the official sources of advice, and not reporting Twitter as if it's news or anything like that, because it's not. It's not real. It’s gossip and nonsense in most cases, and it's important that we report the facts on these things. So everyone's got a role to play, I think to help ensure that people are getting the right information. And we will seek to counter those things directly as I've done here today. But whether it's in the part of the social media campaign that's been run by the Government or indeed the direct communications campaigns we're doing, it's all designed to get that information out to people.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, will you now consider direct payments to all Australians following Donald Trump's moves in the US overnight? Or do you still prefer a much more targeted approach to social payments?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we have a far more wider and more effective social safety net than most countries in the world. I think it's one of the I think the great boasts of Australia, it’s not just our medical system, our health system, and the way that operates, equally our social security system, it is a well-developed one. And it's both targeted in nature, but also has a broad safety net benefit to the population, and we'll be announcing further measures on these matters once they're finalised. Kath.

JOURNALIST: Just sticking with the stimulus, and I’ve got a question for Dr. Murphy as well. But you said, I think, that before that round two would be announced once it's properly designed. Does that indicate that you're looking for round two? That there might be new programs that round one you delivered all within existing programs, tax transfers etc. Are you looking at new programs for round two? And also Dr. Murphy if I may, you said that your group the AHPPC, is that right? Sorry. Met for two days this week and there was a unanimity of views. Did anybody within your group express a view at any point that the crowd limit of 100 should have applied before today? As in a couple of days ago. Should have been applied a couple of days ago?

PRIME MINISTER: Let me deal with your question first. The same principles that applied to the policies we announced last week on the economic stimulus measures are applying to the measures that we're now working on. And there's a very practical reason for that. They work. If you deliver them through existing systems and mechanisms, they get to people quicker. And so those design principles are the same ones we’ll be applying for those arrangements. The task is different to the one that the Treasurer and I spoke of last week. The task of this next set of measures is really about trying to cushion the impact. I can't understate the significance of the gear change that occurred last weekend. The gear change, when we were moving to far more widespread social distancing and bands on gatherings and all of this, this has a much more profound impact on the economy. And there are many things that will be hard to predict going forward, but as we adjust and upgrade and scale our response, then that will also require adjustment to other responses that we're making.  And I think in the area of the economic impact, what we're seeing here is we haven't seen this for a very, very long time. Certainly in living memory and that's for some who have lived a very long life. As I said, we haven't seen a pandemic on this scale globally of something of this nature going back to a 100 years ago, and so it was a very different world back then, and today that puts us in quite unprecedented response territory. But I'll allow Dr. Murphy to deal with the other matter.

DR. MURPHY: So, last Friday, AHPPC was strongly of the view that it was time to really up the ante on social distancing, and we have been since then talking about both internal and external gatherings. At the time on Friday, our recommendation to the National Cabinet was to implement the mass gatherings for 500 people externally and we were instructed to come back and look at internal gatherings in this meeting over the next two days, and that was what we did.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can you guarantee at this point that the Budget will be held on May 12?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, we, that that is the current plan Shane, but if that changes then we'll make a decision on that.  These are things that, I mean all of these issues are up for review right now. Right now, the key economic package that I'm focusing on with the Treasurer, and the Finance Ministers, and the other members of the ERC, we spent quite a lot of time together, some, most of us by telepresence, on working through those issues. And so that is that is the package that we're most focused on at the moment. And when it comes to the Budget, there are no plans to change that at the moment, but if that changes then we'll let people know.

JOURNALIST: Doctors have said that, have asked the Premier in WA to consider closing off WA, trying to limit the spread in our state, you know it’s very far away from everywhere else obviously. Does that have merit, in your opinion? And Mr. Morrison I understand this may have been brought up by Mark McGowan yesterday.


JOURNALIST: To close off WA, if that’s something that would be considered?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, first of all, that's not something the Western Australian Government has supported, and that's not a measure that is being recommended by the AHPPC, or any medical officers. The only issue of closing off particular areas, is a sensitive area. So you know places where essentially there's remote Indigenous communities and this already happening in parts of the Northern Territory. And that if anything in some of those communities, it's about keeping teachers and others in those communities, and ensuring that people don't leave and come back. So, you know, the issues that have to be addressed here are principally around health, and if there's a health reason that you'd want to isolate particular areas of the country, well the powers exist for that to happen now. And as I flagged in my opening statement, the Premiers and Chief Ministers are working together with the Commonwealth to identify what areas of the country need to be subject to such an exclusion zone. As I said, it's not being on the plane that's the issue, it's where you might be coming from and going to. Now take that as a general rule, next week the Parliament will resume. There'll be 60 less members in the House of Representatives and there'll be 22 less or thereabouts in the Senate. That means there will be less than 100 people in the main Chamber during the course of next week's sittings. And those pairs, which is basically 30 each, for both the Government and the Opposition - I thank the Opposition for their agreement to these arrangements, and I spoke to Anthony Albanese yesterday morning - that will mean that we'll be able to deal with the essential legislation, but those particularly relates to this event and both the economic and health measures that need to be passed. We will have a Question Time. The Opposition have asked for that. Happy to have a Question Time on the days that the Parliament is sitting, but the intention is, is to get through that legislation as quickly as possible. But the people we are saying not to come to Parliament next week, are particularly those for some of those more remote areas like the Northern Territory, North Queensland, parts of a remote, South Australia or Western Australia. We're encouraging those members, particularly those who may be more elderly members of the House or the Senate also not attend, and obviously those who are in self isolation or things like that. Brendan.

DR. MURPHY:  It is impractical to fully isolate a large part of the country. This virus will spread, but as the Prime Minister said it is really important to isolate vulnerable people. So our focus is on trying to protect age care facilities, remote communities, anywhere where there are vulnerable people getting this virus coming in. To protect a large part of the community, isolation might delay entry of the virus or community transmission, but it will not prevent it.

PRIME MINISTER: Okay. Thank you very much.