Venues around Australia will be closed from today in a public lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government announced overnight.
Bars and clubs, sporting venues, gyms, theatres, casinos, and churches have been ordered to close from midday, with restaurants allowed to remain open for takeaway and delivery only, ABC News has reported.
The closures, intended to slow the spread of COVID-19, may remain in place for six months.
Events around the country and internationally had already been cancelled or postponed due to the virus.
Schools will remain open at this time, in accordance with advice from chief medical officer Brendan Murphy.
Essential businesses including supermarkets, pharmacies, banks, and petrol stations will also be permitted to continue trading.
While physical distancing has been recommended in recent weeks, many clubs and other venues had remained open.
Some venues, including sex on premises clubs, have been checking patron temperatures on entry.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a press conference that the lockdown orders were due to the public failing to practise appropriate distancing to help contain infections.
He said images of a packed Bondi Beach on the weekend “served as a message to federal and state leaders that too many Australians are not taking these issues seriously enough”.
Morrison said that people will not be confined to their homes, but that they should remain home unless travel is “essential”.
“Those holidays that you may have been planning to take interstate over the school holidays are cancelled,” he said, adding that “far more draconian” measures were to come.
Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory have effectively closed their borders by requiring interstate arrivals to self-isolate for 14 days.
Police have been granted emergency powers to fine and even jail people in breach of lockdown orders.
“The more we share the sacrifice, the more we do the right thing together as Australians, the more lives we will save, the more livelihoods we will be able to preserve and the stronger we will all be on the other side,” said Morrison.
Guidelines have been released for the general public as well as specific groups for minimising the risk of coronavirus transmission and coping with the pandemic.
Anyone needing counselling or other support during this period can access community contacts and resources.