THURSDAY APRIL 2
1:20 pm: Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced childcare will be free for parents who are continuing to work during the coronavirus pandemic. The major announcement outlined that the federal government will also be providing financial support for 13,000 childcare and early-childhood centres around the country, in a bid to brace the struggling sector following a significant downturn from falling attendance rates. The overhaul of the system, which Prime Minister Scott Morrison said is aimed at parents who rely on childcare centres so they can continue working in critical industries, will take effect from Sunday evening (April 5). You can view a video stream of the announcement over at 9news.
9:00 am: Australia’s national science agency CSIRO has held a media briefing announcing it has commenced the first stage of testing for potential COVID-19 vaccines. The testing is currently underway at the agency’s high-containment biosecurity facility – the Australian Animal Health Laboratory – and is expected to take three months. Work on possible vaccines began in January, in partnership and consultation with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the World Health Organisation respectively, allowing a global collaborative effort to fast-track the fight against the virus. The beginning of testing is a significant milestone, with the CSIRO working around the clock to test for efficacy, and evaluate the best way to administer the vaccine for better protection. Read the full statement on the CSIRO website.
WEDNESDAY APRIL 1
5:00 pm: In a bid to relieve pressure on Australia’s front-line workers, more than 40,000 retired doctors, nurses, midwives and pharmacists are being encouraged to re-join the workforce in their medical profession. A report by the ABC details the push from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), which is urging practitioners whose medical registrations have lapsed in the last three years to apply from next Monday. Those who successfully re-join will be added to the register for a period of 12 months, under a special pandemic sub-register. You can read the full report by the ABC here.
MONDAY MARCH 30 (and the weekend round-up)
3:00 pm: Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a $130-billion wage subsidy scheme, an unprecedented measure to match these unprecedented times. The package targets businesses who have been forced or were due to stand down staff due to the pandemic, in a bid to prevent millions of Australians losing their jobs. The ‘JobKeeper payment’ will see businesses receiving a fortnightly wage subsidy of $1500 per employee. We’ve taken a closer look at that it entails – you can get more information in our story here.
11:40 am: Woolworths is rolling out a Priority Assistance $80 basic grocery box for elderly and other vulnerable people during the coronavirus crisis. The boxes will include meals, snacks and a few essential items, and cannot be customised. Orders will be delivered contactless via Australia Post and other couriers, and should arrive within two to five working days. The boxes can be ordered online (or via phone support) from this week in the ACT, New South Wales and Victoria, and will be introduced to the other states in the coming weeks.
9:00 am: The Queensland Government announced its latest official social-distancing rules, effective as of 11:59 pm on Sunday March 29. The home-confinement direction for Queensland residents reiterates last night’s announcement from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, reducing social gatherings to no more than two people. It also clearly outlines the the permitted purposes that people can leave home, which can only be done in the time reasonably necessary to accomplish those activities or tasks. Notable outside of what we already know – you should not be going into work if your duties can reasonably be performed at home. Penalties will apply to those who do not comply to these new restrictions. Get a breakdown of all of the details in our story here.
8:00 am: The Federal Government will be announcing its highly anticipated wage subsidy today. Reports are that it will be the “single largest” measure so far and could provide stood-down full-time workers up to $1500 a fortnight. We’ll keep you posted this afternoon as announcements are made.
From the weekend:
- On the evening of Sunday March 29, Prime Minister Scott Morrison held another press conference, cracking down further on social distancing restrictions. The gathering limit of ten people has been reduced to two people and states and territories can now enforce these rules. We break it down digestibly for you in our Dissecting SCOMO round-up here.
- Vulnerable people, specifically those over the age of 70, those with a chronic illness over the age of 60, and Indigenous Australians over the age of 50 should be staying home as much as is practical.
- The states and territories will be putting a temporary ban on evictions of people and businesses unable to meet their rent requirements due to financial distress. Further work is being done on this matter.
- The Federal Government has launched an official coronavirus app and WhatsApp channel to keep Australians informed on government advice, announcements and restrictions. The idea is to help cut through the noise and provide all necessary information in a digestible way. Get the full details in our story here.
- Queensland Police has been grated the power to enforce social distancing rules, now conducting around-the-clock compliance checks on Queenslanders in self quarantine. Officers have the option of issuing infringement notices on the spot in appropriate circumstances where social distancing and health guidelines aren’t adhered to – individuals can be fined $1334.50, while businesses will face $6672.50 fines. Police also have the authority to break up gatherings of more than two people, as well as issue fines if more than ten people are in one home (unless they all reside there).
FRIDAY MARCH 27
9:50 am: Brisbane’s Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner has announced that Brisbane City Council parking meters will be switched off from today, making more than 8000 spaces free of charge. Additionally, BCC’s King George Square and Wickham Terrace car parks will offer all-day parking for $5. The Lord Mayor also announced that parking fines would not be issued unless dangerous parking is occurring.
THURSDAY MARCH 26
10:50 am: Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced that Queensland schools will move to pupil-free days as of Monday March 30 to limit the spread of coronavirus. Schools will remain open in a limited capacity for children of anyone with a job deemed essential until the end of term on Friday April 3. Education minister Grace Grace has said that daycare centres and after-school care will also continue. Teachers will still be expected to work in order to prepare future learning materials for remote learning from home.
10:00 am: After some debate, the Federal Government has rescinded restrictions on hairdressers and barbers that originally imposed a 30-minute limit on appointments. The restriction was announced on Tuesday as part of a range of new measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community. While the limit ruling has been axed for now, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged that hairdressers and barbers adhere to the 4-sqm rule and that personal contact during appointments must be minimised.
WEDNESDAY MARCH 25
8:30 am: Last night, the president of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach and prime minister of Japan Abe Shinzo held a conference call to discuss the postponement and rescheduling of the Games of the XXXII Olympiad, which were to be held in Tokyo later this year. Both parties concluded that the Olympic Games in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020, but could not be held later than summer 2021. The decision comes after Canada’s national Olympic committee announced that it would be withdrawing from the games. The International Olympic Committee is currently finalising details of a new schedule and liaising with international federations to make space in 2021’s global sports calendar. Watch Thomas Bach’s video message to athletes here.
TUESDAY MARCH 24
9:30 pm: There was another announcement from cabinet this evening – here is a quick recap. From midnight tomorrow, Wednesday March 25, in addition to the earlier closure announcement, there will be a full lockdown on all shopping centre food courts, libraries, museums, beauty salons, tattoo parlours, swimming pools, indoor exercise activities, indoor and outdoor play centres, arcades, amusement parks, auctions and open houses. Weddings will be restricted to only five people (so that’s the couple, the celebrant and two witnesses) and funerals restricted to ten mourners. Hairdressers and barbers can remain open, however, clients must be in and out within 30 minutes. Outdoor bootcamps and personal training can continue to run in groups of less than ten. House parties may be considered an offence and are advised against, homes should only be left for essential outings, yet schools remain open. If you’re feeling confused, we’ll have the SCOMO dissection for you in the morning.
2:20 pm: In case you missed it, Queensland’s borders are closing – and premier Annastacia Palaszczuk MP has today announced the border restrictions will come into effect from midnight Wednesday March 25. Exemptions to the restrictions are freight, emergency vehicles, emergency workers and those going to and from work, as well as essential travel for court orders (including family court), medical treatment and compassionate grounds. Anyone travelling to Queensland that is not usually a resident in the state will have to agree to self-isolate for 14 days, sick or not. Penalties for failing to comply include fines of up to $13,345. A live video of the press announcement can be viewed on the ABC, and an easy-to-read outline of the restrictions has also been pinned to Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Facebook page.
12:10 pm: The Queensland Government has announced a plan to inject $4 billion into the state’s economy, revealing plans to extend tax breaks for small to medium-sized businesses in order to prevent job losses in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. A report by the ABC details how the package will supersede initial plans to defer payroll tax requirements, instead refunding two months’ worth of payroll tax immediately and also waiving the next three months’ worth of payroll tax. The story reported that businesses would receive a cash injection of roughly $9000, with a further $13,600 to be waived over the next three months. Queensland’s treasurer Jackie Trad has said the plan would equate to $2.5 billion, with a further $1.5 billion to be announced later this week.
12:00 pm: In a bid to help supply the state’s schools and frontline workers with hospital-grade hand sanitiser, Beenleigh Artisan Distillery and Bundaberg Rum Distillery yesterday announced that both entities would temporarily shift focus towards the production of ethanol. Each distillery would utilise existing production lines and staff to produce the product, with Bundaberg Rum estimated to donate 100,000 litres of ethanol (enough for 500,000 bottles of hand sanitiser) to the Queensland Government. Locally, Brisbane Distillery Company has also started to produce its own hand sanitiser, with bottles available at a discount for healthcare workers.
11:31 am: Coles is extending its Community Hour to not only assist the vulnerable and elderly, but also our healthcare and emergency-services workers. From this Thursday March 26, Coles will dedicate the first hour of trade from 7:00–8:00 am every Tuesday and Thursday to those on the front line, including doctors, nurses, paramedics, hospital and ambulance staff, firefighters, police and emergency service workers. Access will be granted to Community Hour if workers present their AHPRA card or workplace ID, or are wearing their work uniform. The first hour of Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays will still be dedicated to the vulnerable and elderly.
9:00 am: After being restricted to takeaway-only food service, the struggling hospitality industry has been given a much-needed boost – licensed restaurants and cafes in Queensland can now supply alcohol (takeaway or delivery) alongside their takeaway food offering. The changes to the liquor licensing, which you can view here on the Queensland Government website, state that a maximum of 2.25 litres of alcohol can be supplied only in conjunction with a takeaway food order, and can only consist of bottled or canned beer, wine, cider and ready-to-drink beverages.