The meetings are happening as experts consider whether to restrict access to aged care homes in an effort to prevent the virus reaching some of society’s most vulnerable people.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is meeting with the Treasurer and Finance Minister on Monday afternoon to discuss further economic measures, following last week’s $17 billion stimulus package.
They are discussing problems in specific sectors such as airlines, and what challenges require immediate responses.
The Prime Minister has also decided he will relocate from Sydney to Canberra to be closer to bureaucrats and make it easier to conduct meetings of the National Security Committee of Cabinet. No decision has been made yet about whether his family will join him.
On Monday morning Mr Morrison and his senior ministerial colleagues went on a media spree in a bid to reassure Australians, as Victoria declared a state of emergency and the ACT declared a public health emergency.
“A state of emergency is not a state of panic,” the Prime Minister said.
“A state of emergency puts in place special powers for state governments to help manage the spread of a health epidemic.
“Yesterday [Sunday] it was an issue discussed by the state premiers, that they would be all moving effectively to that footing.”
Federal leaders also urged shoppers to stop panic buying, as supermarket chains announced restricted opening hours solely for elderly and disabled people.
Concerns have been raised about whether some of the most vulnerable members of the community are missing out on essentials as panic buying and stockpiling continues.
“Let’s all look after each other and be respectful to each other and help each other out,” Mr Morrison said.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said people needed to be measured in their shopping.
“I’ve also seen the reports of panic buying, I suppose would be one description,” she said.
“They’re not just happening here, they’ve happened in other countries as well. And it’s not necessary.
“It’s not the case that stores are going to close or supplies are going to cease.”
The Prime Minister’s early morning media blitz came as new ban on non-essential mass gatherings of more than 500 people came into force.
A newly formed national cabinet, including Mr Morrison, the premiers and chief ministers, held its first meeting on Sunday as the Commonwealth and states work together to counter coronavirus’ spread.
New travel requirements mean all people arriving in Australia, including citizens, must self-isolate for a fortnight. The Government has also banned cruise ships from docking in Australia for 30 days.
Aged care, testing concerns
Health authorities are considering whether to restrict visits to aged care facilities to protect elderly people from the spread of the coronavirus.
Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said residential aged care providers were being encouraged to limit visits from today.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly said chief medical officers from around the nation would meet in person on Monday afternoon to consider what more should be done to protect high-risk groups.
“We need to do what we can to limit the opportunity for the infection to come into aged care,” he said.
“There are a range of measures that we put in place in flu seasons when there’s a large number of influenza cases in the community or indeed if there is an outbreak within an aged care facility.”
Professor Kelly said the Government needed to “careful and prudent” about its use of testing, flagging some issues with “consumables” in relation to the testing kits.
After one testing clinic was opened, 1600 people were tested but just one was found to be positive.
“You need to look at where you get your best bang for your buck,” he said.
He declined a request to elaborate, saying only that “we’re continuing to test”.
Schools to remain open
The Prime Minister said the Federal Government would continue to monitor whether schools should be shut down.
But he said the advice of medical authorities was that schools currently remained safe.
“That situation may change in the future, but when it does, that’s when we’ll act,” he said.
“This is something that changes each day, and you proportion your response to the information and the case load that you have now.”