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Australia placed under Stage 2 coronavirus restrictions

VICTORIA enters Stage Two restrictions on social gatherings as the growth in the number of coronavirus cases, with two men in their 70s being treated for the virus becoming the state’s first fatalities.

From March 25, additional business and activities will be prohibited under Stage Two  restrictions, which includes:
- Community, youth, and recreation centres, with the exception that they may remain open for hosting essential voluntary or public services such as food banks or homeless services;
- Community facilities (such as community halls, clubs, RSLs, PCYCs) and places of worship;
- Health clubs, fitness centres,  yoga, barre and spin facilities, saunas, bathhouses, and wellness centres;
- Galleries, museums, historic sites, and libraries;
- Social sporting-based activities;
- Public swimming pools;
- In-store beauty therapies, tanning, waxing, nail salons, and tattoo parlours;
- Real estate auctions and open house inspections, with the exception of private inspections;

Further restrictions have been placed on other social gatherings such as:
- Weddings, which will be restricted to five people or less with one person per four square metres;
- Funerals, which will be restricted 10 people or less with one person per four square metres.
- Caravan parks, which will be limited to workers, permanent residents or interim residents without access to their home, although each state and territory will have the power to change this at their discretion;
- Hairdressers and barber shops will be limited to 30 minutes with one person per foursquare metres;
- Food courts will be closed, although cafes and restaurants will still be able to offer takeaway and home delivery services;
- Personal training both inside and outside will be limited to no more than 10 people with social distancing rules still applying;
- Concert venues, theaters, arenas, and auditoriums will be allowed to host live performances with social distancing.

More rigorous testing will be applied for health care, aged and residential workers who display a fever or acute respiratory infection.

Other essential services such as supermarkets, petrol stations, banks, and post offices will remain open.

Council

Yarriambiack Shire Council services will continue to operate under its current emergency plan, with council to review the decision next Tuesday.

Following the advice handed down by the State and Federal Governments, certain council services have either been restricted or closed in order to limit direct contact with shire residents.

As of this week, council has suspended:
- Child playgroups, kindergaten and senior citizens meetings;
- Warracknabeal Customer Service Office;
- Warracknabeal library branch and the mobile library service;
- Stadiums and gyms;
- The Hopetoun, Warracknabeal and Murtoa caravan parks have closed for new bookings;
- Public toilets in Turiff, Speed, Tempy Park, Murtoa’s Rabl Park, Woomelong Cronomby Tanks, the Warracknabeal boat ramp,  and the Beulah pool. Remaining public toilets will be cleaned once a day.

A number of council services have also been amended in line with health restrictions with:
- Meals on Wheels closing its centre with council staff now being used for home visits, barring volunteers;
- Maternal Child Health Services will conduct appointments over the phone with critical face-to-face visits available through booking;
- Immunisations will need to be arranged through the Maternal Child Health nurse;
-  Kerbside collection and landfills will continue to operate as usual;
- Building inspections will continue with social distancing measures in place;
- The salesyard will continue to operate without public access.

Yarriambiack Shire Mayor Graeme Massey said that the  extraordinary impact of the coronavirus forced council to reassess the delivery of its services, aiming to ensure council’s “business continuity”.

“We are faced with a scenario that is constantly changing and we are beholden to State and Federal Government directives,” he said.

“What I can say is that council will use all of its resources to act for and advocate on the behalf of the community through this period. This is not business as usual for council - this is business continuity so that we are best placed to serve the community at all times.”

“Some staff have been redirected to identified needs such as food security and access as well as additional support in economic development to assist with our business sector support.”

“Council will continue to work with the Local Government industry as well as the State and Federal Governments to identify the best way to assist our community.”

Restrictions  

The National Cabinet acted on advice provided by the  AHPPC at midday on March 25, which will begin to temporarily suspend all non-urgent elective surgery as of March 26, with only Category One and some exceptional Category Two being exempt.

Under guidelines provided by the government, Category One surgeries are those people who require treatment within 30 days without the patient’s health deteriorating, and Category Two surgeries are those who require treatment within 90 days but are unlikely to require emergency assistance.

The changes to state’s health department procedures won’t affect emergency surgeries, such as urgent heart, neurological, and cancer treatments, and those Category One surgeries booked during the department’s “elective surgery blitz”.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday morning, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said that the new restrictions were meant to slow down the “imminent threat” of the virus’ spread, particularly in Victoria.

“(National Cabinet) agreed states and territories will soon need to take individual measures - because this is moving at different speeds in different places,” he said.

In its advice to the National Cabinet on March 24, the AHPPC stated the significant growth in the number of cases  across Australia, particularly those returning from overseas travel and now local contractions, suggested that further restrictions would be required to slow the spread.

Premier Andrews also indicated the possibility of Stage Three restrictions so that Victoria’s health system can handle an influx in patients.

All states and territories agreed to the current advice by the AHPPC, except for Victoria, which expressed a desire for further restrictions.

No criteria has been set for Stage Three restrictions, although if considered by the AHPPC and the National Cabinet, would likely see the closure of all activity except for essential industries and services.