Just hours after the Prime Minister’s press conference at 11am on Sunday, March 22, which only hinted at the introduction of more social restrictions to fight the spread of COVID-19, the NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, announced her intention to shut down all non-essential businesses across the state within 48 hours.
While a comprehensive list of which services and businesses will be deemed “non-essential” is yet to be released, it is believed the shutdown will include the closure of many hospitality and retail businesses, including cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants. Pharmacies and medical services, supermarkets, petrol stations, convenience stores, and home delivery services will be exempt from the closure, however it remains unclear if businesses such as gyms, sports venues and aquatic centres will still be allowed to operate. Schools will also close from Tuesday.
The ramping up of official containment measures follows significant criticism aimed at Australia from around the world in recent days, as stories of people flouting the social distancing measures intended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus have trended on social media. Most notably, scenes of a packed Bondi Beach on Friday evening was met with outrage from people based in countries where all social mobility has been banned and enforced quarantine has been instituted.
Despite the seemingly casual attitudes of some Sydneysiders, the spread of COVID-19 has continued to escalate across the city, with more confirmed cases reported daily than any other location in Australia. More than 500 people have been diagnosed with the disease across the Sydney metropolitan area to date. Other states are instituting similarly severe restrictions, with Victoria mirroring the shutdown planned for NSW. Both South Australia and Western Australia announced the closures of their borders from the rest of the nation from Tuesday.
More details of what the shutdown means for small business owners, shift workers and consumers are expected tomorrow following a crisis meeting of the National Cabinet this evening. However, based on the currently available information, measures similar to those brought into play in major infection hotspots in Europe and China could be likely.