THE rise in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases over the weekend has led to a further shutdown of non-essential services, with businesses across the country facing closures of up to six months.
The escalating restrictions come the number of cases rise across Australia with 67 new cases being confirmed in Victoria, one of which was in the Yarriambiack Shire.
According to the Department of Human and Health Services, there are 25 confirmed cases in regional Victoria, with three cases confirmed as being contracted through community members.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the announcement on Sunday night after a National Cabinet meeting, with Premiers and State Ministers agreeing to implement Stage One restrictions through state legislation, which will be reviewed monthly.
National Cabinet agreed to new restrictions starting midday March 23, which will see the shutdown of pubs, registered and licensed clubs, gyms and sporting venues, and entertainment venues.
Essential services such as supermarkets, banks, pharmacies, petrol stations and convenience stores will be allowed to remain open.
Tighter restrictions will also be placed on cafes and restaurants, which will be restricted to takeaway and/ or home delivery, and places of worship and funerals, where a four square metre rule per person will apply.
Under the state emergency declaration by the Victorian Government, Victoria Police has deployed a 500 person “coronavirus enforcement squad” which will have the authority to ensure restrictions are being abided.
The deployment will be state-wide although Victoria Police where unable to confirm when or where they would be placed, although they said it would unlikely that they would be attached to any one police station.
In a statement released by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, he said that the measures were necessary to ensure that Victorians take the new restrictions seriously.
“The Stage One shutdown will have a significant impact on the lives and livelihoods of many Victorians, but if we don’t do this, more Victorians will contract coronavirus and more Victorians will die.”
The tighter restrictions have also brought forward school holidays to Tuesday for Victorians, with the Premier adding that the extra time should be used by schools to start planning online courses.
Local schools have already begun planning to provide students with online school work in the event that schools are forced to remain closed when they are supposed to resume after school holidays on April 14.
As non-essential businesses are forced to close until further notice, essential services such as the Warracknabeal Pharmacy will continue to stay open, offering non-contact delivery service for customers.
Limitations have been placed on the purchase of certain prescription medications to a one months supply, with over-the-counter medicine purchases being limited to one item per purchase.
Rural Northwest Health has also upgraded its visit restrictions, now preventing visitors from entering its Hopetoun and Warracknabeal centres.
However, the healthcare centre will be facilitating telecommunications for patients and families to ensure that they can remain in contact.
Woodbine is also faced with a similar situation, having to close its main office as well as its associated outlets and services such as Country Essentials, the Opportunity Shop, the YarriYak Cafe and the Woodbine pool until further notice.
Adjustments have also been made to Warracknabeal Laundromat, which will remain open but will be unable to provide change or detergent, and the Warracknabeal Gardening and Cleaning Services, which will continue to maintain Woodbine premises but will be closed to the public.
On Friday, the Federal Minister for Regional Health Mark Coulton met with the president of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) Dr John Hall and the president of Remote Medicine Dr Ewen McPhee to discuss what could be done to assist regional Victorians through the new containment measures.
No new assistance for regional Victoria has yet been signalled although a spokesperson for the RDAA said that it would be contact with the Federal Government as the situation evolved, urging people to contact their GP using telehealth options.
“The best option for people at the moment is to used telehealth so that they don’t have to go into hospitals and away from the emergency room,” they said.
“We’ve had both people and GP’s who have to self quarantine so this option helps people to get some level of medical assistance.”
Local churches are also beginning to close their doors in order to minimise public contact, with St Mary’s Catholic Church already announcing its closure until further notice last week.
Warracknabeal’s Reverend James Wood has announced that the Anglican Church will have to suspend its service until further notice.
“I regret to inform all parishioners and members of the public that the churches in the Anglican Parish of Warracknabeal are now closed until further notice,” Reverend Wood said.
Complicating matters, South Australian Premier Steven Marshall announced on Friday that the state’s border will be closed from 4pm Tuesday.
The closure of the South Australian border will mean that people entering the state will be required to self-isolate for 14 days, with roads and airports being monitored.
South Australia is following Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania controlling movement across their borders, with Queensland closing its border on Wednesday.
Currently, the Victorian Government is not considering closing the state’s borders.
The Federal Government released its second stimulus package on Monday in order to assist individuals and businesses affected by the economic impact.
The $66.1 billion package will target households, including casual workers, sole-traders, retirees and others on income support to ensure people are able to ride out the crisis.
A new time-limited “coronavirus supplement” of $550 per fortnight will be extended to eligible job seekers, for Youth Allowance, Parenting Payments, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit.
The new federal supplement will be added on top of existing payments and will available for the next six months.
A further $750 will be available for social security and veteran income payments, although those eligible to receive the coronavirus supplement will not be able to receive it.