Melbourne: The usually bustling Southbank promenade eerily quiet this morning. From 12pm, restaurants, pubs and cafes will be forced to close their doors to customers who wish to dine in. Takeaway and delivery services still an option. @theheraldsun
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Victoria’s magistrate courts will undergo a partial shutdown from Tuesday with an automatic three-month adjournment to hundreds of listings.
In a note to lawyers on Monday night, Chief Magistrate Lisa Hannan said all criminal hearings across the state’s magistrates’ courts, except filing hearings, committal mentions, and committal hearings, would be adjourned until June 15.
Accused on summons or bail will no longer need to attend filing hearings, provided they are represented by a lawyer.
In civil matters lawyers and interested parties have been directed not to attend court.
Contested committal hearings and Koori court matters have already been suspended across the state.
Four practice directions to lawyers were published on the court’s website.
The directions, which take effect from 9am on Tuesday, were widely praised by lawyers as a sensible step to protect court users.
Chief magistrate Hannan said the move was taken because of health and safety concerns over COVID-19 and the need to reduce the number of people attending court.
Lawyers expect the justice system to be crippled by unprecedented delays because of the coronavirus.
Senior figures have estimated delays of up to three years, while lawyers predict a spike in the number of bail applications because of the delays.
Last week the Supreme Court granted bail to an accused drug trafficker, citing the pandemic as a significant factor in granting bail.
County Court chief Peter Kidd has called the COVID-19 pandemic “our most challenging crisis in recent memory”.
Across the Supreme Court and County Courts all new trials have been suspended.
– Shannon Deery
Hospitals will soon enforce strict new visitor protocols to stop the spread of coronavirus.
From 11.59pm, a maximum of two visitors are allowed per day per patient at public and private hospitals. The visits can be no longer than two hours.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said these measures will help protect the most vulnerable.
There will be exceptions for palliative patients and new mums in maternity wards.
“If people arrive in large groups they will he turned away,” Ms Mikakos said.
“We need to be very strict on the restrictions around the number of visitors so we can keep very vulnerable patients in our hospital safe.
“This also means that anyone who is unwell should definitely not be visiting anyone in hospital.”
There are currently 1000 ventilators in Victoria, with another 2000 on order.
Ms Mikakos said the government was looking at ways for vital medical equipment to be made locally to ensure supply for the months ahead.
“We are treating this as if these are war times,” she said.
Sixty-one new coronavirus cases have been recorded in Victoria, taking the state’s tally to 355.
Those infected are aged in their early teens to mid-80s and include 33 males and 25 females.
Statewide, there are 290 confirmed cases in metropolitan Melbourne and 35 in regional Victoria.
Essential service workers with children in primary or specialist schools will be able to send their kids to campuses despite shut downs this week.
The Department of Education will put out the offer to all parents or guardians who work in health, police, corrections and emergency services.
If they have a child in primary school, or any specialist school, and require assistance in caring for kids while they work on the front lines, they will still be able to send students to school sites even though they will be officially closed from tomorrow.
Vulnerable kids in out-of-home care, who are at risk of harm, referred by agencies in family violence, homelessness, mental health or other health areas will also be able to access supervision.
More than 23,700 people have been tested to date.
Ms Mikakos said the median age of a coronavirus patient is 49.
She said people, particularly young people, must take social distancing rules seriously to avoid deaths.
“This is not an elderly person’s disease. This is a disease that can strike people of any age,” she said.
“We are going to see a lot of people die and the only way we can save lives is to do our civic duty and follow all the public health messages.”
Meanwhile, one million new face masks arrived in Victoria today, with another million to arrive next week.
The state is also waiting on significant personal protective equipment orders for medical staff working in direct contact with patients.
Ms Mikakos said efforts were underway to manufacture these items locally to ensure supply.
“We are pulling out all stops to prepare our public hospital system but working right across the health system,” she said.
Ms Mikakos said are under immense pressure and it is only a matter of time before elective surgeries are delayed.
“This will be an inconvenience for many but it will need to happen to keep others alive,” she said.
It comes as all pubs, clubs, casinos, cinemas, entertainment venues, nightclubs and places of worship shut down across the country as of midday.
All other businesses — such as health services, retailers at shopping centres and tradespeople — can continue to operate as long as they follow strict health rules and minimise contact with people.
Restaurants and cafes cannot seat customers but can continue serving takeaway.
Childcare and kindergarten services will continue but that might change depending on health advice.
Meanwhile, long queues snaked around Centrelink offices around the country and the federal government’s online portal for unemployment benefits crashed under the increased strain.
Lines of people this morning formed at Centrelink offices including Abbotsford and Prahran.
Both the Centrelink app and the entire MyGov portal fell over shortly before 9am, with users unable to log into their accounts to update their information or register for allowances including Newstart.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the list of closures, focused on indoor gatherings, as “stage one” of new measures to enforce social distancing and limit the spread of the coronavirus.
It was agreed to by state and federal leaders at last night’s meeting, held about four hours after Mr Andrews released a statement which said: “Victoria will proceed over the next 48 hours to implement a shutdown of all non-essential activity across our state.”
New South Wales took a similar position prior to the meeting.
The Herald Sun has been told Mr Andrews’ statement — along with border closures in South Australia and Western Australia — was a key factor in the AFL’s decision to suspend its season.
The league feared it would be deemed a non-essential activity and stopped the season before considering an option to base all teams in one area and keep playing, as the NRL is now looking at.
This morning, Mr Andrews told the ABC a second and even third stage of the lockdown would be considered, with national cabinet due to meet again tomorrow night.
He refused to say which sectors of the community would be impacted by this — but the state government has indicated that non-essential retail stores may soon be forced to shut.
When asked whether his statement yesterday of shutting all non-essential activity had since been “moderated”, Mr Andrews didn’t disagree.
But he said the list of closed services would probably be expanded at some stage.
“We have to make sure that these things are enforced,” he said.
“If you’re not on that list … you can keep operating, you can keep trading, you can be working in a shopping centre, you can be doing a dog grooming business.
“At this stage, that is the list. I think it’s inevitable that we will add to it. I think it’s a big step.
“There’s a lot of gatherings that won’t happen now.”
Mr Andrews said businesses which were still operating needed to enforce social distancing rules — with limits already in place to ensure indoor venues only have one person per four square metres.
He said it was about using a “common sense” approach and reinforced that the closure of many industries was unprecedented.
Mr Andrews said he wasn’t talked out of tougher state measures by the prime minister, after he said that all non-essential activity be shut down.
“It’s a first step,” he said.
The Herald Sun understands other services to be maintained include public transport, emergency services and police, health services, rubbish collection and post delivery.
— Ask the Expert is on again today, this time with child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg at 12pm AEDT. Follow here
A rush for second computer monitors and freezers has delivered JB Hi-Fi a major sales bump but the retailer has joined the rapidly expanding list of companies to axe their profit forecast.
Sales at the electronics and whitegoods giant surged 9.1 per cent for the period spanning January 1 to March 20, it said in a trading update released today.
Like-for-like sales, which strip out the impact of stores opening and closing, surged 8.8 per cent.
JB Hi-Fi said there had been a strong sales rush in the past couple of weeks — a period which has seen growing numbers of employees begin working from home and the general public prepare for periods of self-quarantine and broader shutdowns.
MITCH TOY: A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A WFH MELBURNIAN
“The company continued to see strong momentum in Australia through the quarter, with an acceleration in recent weeks as both JB Hi-Fi and The Good Guys provided retail and commercial customers with the essential products they need to respond to and prepare for COVID-19,” it said in a statement lodged with the stock market.
Items in demand included “technology products that enable remote working, learning and communication and essential home appliances for food storage and preparation,” the statement said.
Rival retailer Harvey Norman released a trading update last week that showed a similar sales surge.
But despite the immediate sales bump, JB Hi-Fi has dropped its profit forecast for the current financial year.
— John Dagge
Victorians have been implored to stop being selfish or people will die, as the state implemented unprecedented shutdown measures from midday today.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the shutdown of non-essential activity will be in place until at least midnight on April 13.
“Never before have we seen such a large part of the economy shutdown,” he said “It is painful but it is appropriate. We needed to take a big step, and we have.”
Mr Andrews added: “There are many Victorians who are acting selfishly. They are doing the wrong thing. If that continues, then people will die.”
Weddings and funerals will be able to continue under the stage one shutdown but will be subject to social distancing and crowd number rules.
Laying down new rules, Mr Andrews said the fact that bars were shut was not an excuse to “go round to a mate’s house and get on the beers”.
“You won’t be able to go to the pub because the pub is shut,” he said in a stern address.
“That it doesn’t mean you can have your mates over home and get on the beers, it is not appropriate.”
Mr Andrews said there was an example of a dinner party where one person had COVID-19 and then infected the other dozen guests.
“As best we can tell, the dinner party started with one person who had the coronavirus,” he said.
“By the end of the dinner party, almost everyone had the coronavirus, this spreads rapidly.”
He said common sense applies for companies that are not on the list of “closed” businesses and remain open, including enforcing social distancing and working from home when possible.
School holidays will begin at the conclusion of class today.
“These are not ordinary school holidays,” Mr Andrews has said. “It will be a very different school holiday and it needs to be.”
The premier said kids should not be having sleepovers with friends or hanging out at shopping centres.
“If we don’t, we will be talking about quite an amazing tragedy,” he said.
The Premier said people needed to summon “mateship” or whatever they wanted to call their actions to ensure that “people you have never met” don’t die.
“Do the right thing, for everybody,” he said.
Mr Andrews said if there is a situation where “this virus fundamentally gets away from us” there will be thousands of people that can only breathe with a machine, and there “we will not have enough machines”.
Decisions regarding trades such as hairdressers, barbers, dentists and whether they should continue trading would be made later down the track.
The Premier said the national cabinet was united, and there had not been any friction on important measures taken.
He said there could be further rules enforced in coming days or weeks, but that people shouldn’t underestimate how big the first stage of new restrictions were.
“We have never done this before in any of our lifetimes,” Mr Andrews said.
“This is a massive step, ask publicans, people who own gyms, but we needed to take it.”
“It shouldn’t come to that, (patrolling beaches),” Mr Andrews said.
Despite other Australian states and territories closing their borders, Victoria is set to remain open.
“I am not interested in closing our borders,” Mr Andrews said. “Our border is not closed.”
The new way of life follows Prime Minister Scott Morrison announcing drastic new rules that will see all Australians follow ahead of stage one of the nation’s shutdown.
Speaking in Canberra on Sunday night, Mr Morrison said social distancing was “our biggest weapon” to dealing with the spread of coronavirus.
“The failure of our public to do that will put people at risk,” Mr Morrison said, after a cabinet meeting of all Australian states.
As of noon today, clubs, licensed premises, entertainment venues, cinemas and casinos will close while restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway only.
As the unprecedented action begins, Mr Andrews announced a 500-strong squad of police will enforce new rules to reduce the spread of coronavirus and “reduce the number of people that will die”.
Officers will enforce social distancing rules for businesses and ensure people continue mandatory self-isolation due to recent contact or overseas travel.
“We need every Victorian to take this seriously. If people continue to act in a selfish way, then people will die,” he said.
Police Minister Lisa Neville said the government was “upping the ante” regarding spot checks for those who should be in self-isolation.
“Police have the powers to fine you, arrest you, detain you,” she said.
Ms Neville said the newly launched police enforcement squad was a specialised team who will be tasked with performing spot checks.
“They will be tasked with doing spot checks of people who have come back from overseas, they will be looking at venues,” she said.
“The squad is about making sure people are doing the right thing.”
Ms Neville confirmed no one in Victoria had been charged yet with breaking self-isolation quarantines.
“Most people are doing the right thing,” she said. “The fine is up to $20,000 for individuals, it is a very substantial fine.
“If it got to the point where people flout it, that is where you would see changes.”
Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said police had witnessed people not obeying the mandatory self-isolation quarantines.
“Clearly the messaging hasn’t been getting through,” Mr Ashton said. “Hence the need to up the ante and adopt new measures.
“Police will be doing their regular work. We could see increases in family violence.”
Victoria’s schools will shut en masse for the first time since World War II in a bid to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
More than one million Victorian students will have their last day of school today as the State Government has taken the unprecedented decision to close campuses tomorrow, three days before holidays.
Students are scheduled to return to schools on Wednesday, April 15, while teachers will return on April 14.
But traffic near schools in Melbourne’s outer east remained busy as parents and carers arrived to drop their children off for the last day of term one.
While some made the decision to keep children in class today, many other students and parents at Croydon Hills Primary School were seen leaving together after collecting books and schoolwork to do at home.
Parent Sandra Kehoe, a medical worker who was leaving the school with her children and their homework, backed the state government’s decision to begin holidays early.
“It has put the pressure on, and especially because I do work in the medical field, but I respect where they’re coming from because people aren’t taking it seriously,” she told the Herald Sun.
“Especially working over the weekend, people were so dismissive and they don’t realise prevention is the only thing we’ve got.
“I’m lucky enough that I do have some older children that I’ll have to rely on to look after the kids, but so many of my colleagues have actually already had to cancel their shifts because the holidays have started early.”
Nurse Chloe McCombe said she had to keep her children in school today because she wasn’t able to find someone else to look after them.
“It affects us a little bit, it’s just that babysitting and trying to arrange someone so I can keep working,” she said.
“I think they just have to do what’s best for everyone. You just don’t know, we’re trying to take it day by day at the moment.”
Another grandparent, who did not give her name, said they would prefer that schools remained open but they were now expecting a few extra weeks babysitting.
Premier Daniel Andrews said last night any decision to return students after the holidays will be made on the advice of the chief health officer.
The Victorian government’s move to close more than 2200 schools goes against recommendations from the National Cabinet.
Families and workers that rely on childcare will also be given relief under a Federal Government announcement today to minimise the impact of coronavirus.
At this stage, childcare and kindergarten services are continuing but that could change under a new phase of shutdowns.
Gap fees will be waived for families if centres are forced to close due to the pandemic and additional child absences will be permitted without the need for evidence.
— Click here for more on this important story for Victorian families.
All AFL football departments are likely to be shut down with officials at many clubs stood down without pay as clubs today began the task of saving every possible dollar.
The Herald Sun revealed today as many as 70 per cent of all AFL staff would be forced to stand down for several months, unsure if they would have jobs when the AFL season started up again.
Officials at multiple clubs have been told they will not be paid, with Gold Coast already alerting their officials to the shutdown.
Clubs including Richmond and the Western Bulldogs are determined not to conduct a staff purge given their strong financial bases.
But even teams who have made strong recent profits will be determined to save as much on labour costs.
The Federal Government has unveiled a raft of measures in a bid to stimulate Australia’s coronavirus-hit economy, and to help those affected by this unprecedented crisis.
Combined with measures already announced, including the Reserve bank’s injection of cash for banks to provide low-interest business loans, the total stimulus reaches $189 billion, just shy of 10 per cent of GDP.
Source - World Health Organization, Johns Hopkins, other media
The Australian share market is again in free fall, spiralling towards its second worst day since the 1987 crash as the nation finally adopts a war footing to fight the spread of coronavirus.
A string of major companies have today axed their profit forecasts as some states close their borders and others order a shutdown of businesses across a suite of sectors.
With investors reeling, forced to rapidly come to terms with a new order as governments play catch-up amid the relentless march of the virus, the benchmark ASX 200 share index plunged more than 8 per cent.
If it remains at that level, it would mark the second worst day for the index since it was launched 20 years ago this month.
Struggling Australians have been given the green light to access their superannuation early to provide them a much-needed cash injection during the COVID-19 crisis.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg today announced from next month people can tap into their retirement savings early – as part of a series of measures rolled out by the Federal Government amid the coronavirus pandemic.
He said the $3 trillion super system was “the people’s money” and they would be able to access it during this time of crisis.
It is estimated as much as $27 billion will go back into the pockets of Australians – the equivalent of 1.3 million Australians.
— To find out what the coronavirus cash payments mean for you and how to access them, click on this simple explainer
All three racing codes have been given the green light to continue in Victoria, if only for today and tomorrow, in the wake of a statewide shutdown of non-essential services.
The Racing Victoria board is meeting this morning to consider the ramifications of the new shutdown rules and any further restrictions which need to put in place across the industry.
Crowds have already been locked out of meetings and last week RV moved to separate jockeys in to two groups on and off the track.
Other restrictions banned riders travelling interstate from commercial aircraft.
But new recommendations against non-essential interstate travel could further impact the moves of both jockeys and horses.
Further announcements are expected during the day and Pakula also said he expected that racing, like most industries, would have to stop at some stage.
“There will be a period where racing will more than likely will have to stop,” Pakula told RSN.
It’s understood racing will continue around the country.
Meanwhile, Australia’s Olympians have been told to go home to their families and keep safe and prepare for the Tokyo Olympics to take place in the middle of 2021.
The stunning announcement came just hours after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) revealed that it was planning to postpone the biggest sports events on the planet because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Read the full 2020 Olympics story here.
Panic-buying of alcohol before Victoria’s shutdown has begun, with Dan Murphy’s forced to close and major brewers threatening three months without beer.
An unmanageable amount of customers flocked to the Richmond Dan Murphy’s shop yesterday afternoon and forced staff to turn them away and close early.
Australia’s largest brewer, Carlton & United Breweries, said ten of thousands of jobs may be lost, with growing concerns there will be no beer for at least three months.
CUB vice-president of corporate affairs Julian Sheezel said no beer would be available unless it was given exempt status.
He said we should follow Britain in keeping retail and takeaway alcohol available.
Shoppers have rushed to panic-buy ahead of Victoria’s upcoming shutdown.
The frenzy follows yesterday’s announcement of the closure of all non-essential services across Victoria.
Australia’s largest brewer, Carton & United Breweries is concerned there will be no beer available for “at least three months”.
VP of corporate affairs Julian Sheezel said stocks won’t last unless accommodations were made to give beer exempt status.
“In these incredibly uncertain times people need some normality in their lives. They need to be able to access beer and other liquor at bottle shops,” he said.
“You can’t turn major breweries off and then quickly turn them back on. After reopening there could be three months of no beer for pubs and bottle shops.
“Any government decision to shut down liquor supplies would be nonsensical. Most liquor is sold through Coles and Woolworths companies.”
Mr Sheezel said Australian governments should follow the UK in keeping retail and takeaway alcohol with brewing continuing to operate under health and safety regulations.
Amid the panic Dan Murphy’s has urged customers to treat staff with respect and avoid bulk buying.
“We are awaiting clarity from the State, Territory and Federal Governments,” a spokesman said.
“We would ask that in the meantime our customers purchase in normal quantities and treat our team with care and respect.”
Footage of the liquor chain’s Brighton store seen by the Herald Sun shows dozens of customers lined-up ready to make shutdown purchases.
Limiting the number of passengers on trains, trams and buses or shutting down public transport completely could be a key step in stopping the spread of the coronavirus, a health expert has claimed.
Professor Bruce Thompson, the Dean of Swinburne University’s School of Health Sciences, said the Victorian government should consider expanding its social distancing measures on public transport.
The Department of Transport said yesterday that while state public transport would continue as normal for now, tighter restrictions could be around the corner to control the spread of COVID-19.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced plans to recruit more public transport cleaners, but Prof Thompson said the real risk from public transport was human-to-human transfer.
“There’s the concept of trying to limit the spread of the virus in any way we possibly can and now we’re getting to the point of essential services,” he said.
“It’s a hard one. It makes a lot of sense to say we either need to limit public transport travel or just take it out of the equation.”
Rather than stopping all public transport, Prof Thompson said that limiting the number of passengers allowed to travel at any one time would help.
“Limiting the amount of people that get on a train carriage or bus at any one time is one way around it,” he said.
“We could run it but have a limited capacity. It’s starting to happen anyway, people are working from home and travelling less.”
In January, the Chinese government shut down public transport in Wuhan to curb the spread of the virus. Some services are now resuming as the city’s infection rate drops.
A spokesman for Victoria’s Department of Transport told the Herald Sun that changes to public transport were “part of our planning for possible scenarios”.
“This will only be done following expert medical advice, and any changes will be communicated well ahead of time,” the spokesman said.