News Coronavirus Government bans ‘non-essential’ gatherings of more than 500 people
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Government bans ‘non-essential’ gatherings of more than 500 people

All gatherings over 500 people should be banned to limit the spread of the coronavirus, Australia's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy has recommended.
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Australia will effectively ban ‘organised, non-essential gatherings’ of more than 500 people to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The restriction, which will apply from Monday, was announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a media conference after a COAG meeting concluded on Friday afternoon.

“That, of course, doesn’t include schools. It doesn’t include university lectures. It doesn’t mean people getting on public transport or going to airports or things of that nature,” Mr Morrison said.

“It is precautionary. It is getting ahead of this to ensure that we can minimise the impact on your health and [so] we can ensure with confidence the ability for people to be accessing the health services that they and their families will need.”

The Prime Minister also said Australians should reconsider travel overseas unless it was essential.

The government has raised the level of travel advice for all countries, regardless of people’s destination, age or health.

“This is done to protect their health and to limit their exposure, given we have so many countries now that are affected by the coronavirus. Only essential travel should be considered if you are going overseas from this point forward,” he said.

Australia’s chief medical officer had earlier made the recommendation that large gatherings be cancelled amid fears about COVID-19.

State premiers, chief ministers and the Prime Minister subsequently acted on Brendan Murphy’s advice at the meeting in Sydney.

The Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix in Melbourne had already been cancelled today, and spectators for cricket games banned.

NRL, soccer and AFL officials are all currently grappling with questions about crowds and contagion.

The Prime Minister insisted he would still be attending the season-opening game of his beloved Cronulla Sharks rugby league team in Sydney on Saturday night.

The NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and Gold Coast Titans is also going ahead on Friday night.

WA Australian Medical Association (AMA) president Andrew Miller had earlier posted on social media: “You want to go to the footy? I want my colleagues to stay alive.”

He finished the tweet by declaring “this is not a game”.

A new national cabinet made up of the Prime Minister, premiers and chief ministers will meet on Sunday to decide how to put in place arrangements to cope with the coronavirus outbreak.

EVENTS ALREADY AFFECTED

* The Australian Formula One Grand Prix and Supercars’ round in Melbourne has been cancelled this weekend.
* Cricket Australia has banned spectators from Australia’s three-match one-day series against New Zealand in Sydney and Hobart.
* The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability has postponed next week’s community forums in northern Tasmania.
* Next week’s Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety hearings in Adelaide and future hearings will be closed to the public until further notice.
* World Surf League has cancelled the opening event of the 2020 Championship Tour – the Corona Open on the Gold Coast from March 26.

STILL TO BE DECIDED

* The NRL, whose season started on Thursday, and AFL, which starts next week, are yet to respond to the government’s decision.
* Questions have been raised about this year’s St Patrick’s Day Parade in the Rocks in Sydney this weekend.
* The annual Anzac Day services and marches on April 25 are also under a cloud.