New social rules for Australians

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said there would be no more handshaking under these guidelines, including among officials, with more cases of human-to-human transmission of the virus being seen in Australia.


“That is a new thing we’ve moved to, something I will be practising, my cabinet members and others,” Mr Kelly said.

“There will be other measures that may need to be introduced depending on how things work out in the coming weeks or months.”

Schools would stay open, Mr Morrison said, explaining that keeping them open might sound counter-intuitive but shutting them would affect availability of critical workers such as doctors and nurses who might have to stay home and look after children.

Closing down schools might also put children “back in the broader community”, which could also increase risks of them catching a virus, he said.

“That could make the situation worse, not better … the states and territories are not moving in that direction.”

Universities, workplaces and public transport are also expected to operate as usual, but the principle of social distancing will apply.

However, “static, non-essential gatherings” of more than 500 people should not go ahead, such as events held in stadiums or in theatres. Outdoor gatherings reduce the risk of contracting the disease while inside events are more of a concern.

“It would occur in events such as those where people are together in close proximity for a sustained period of time,” Mr Morrison said.

“The advice is those gatherings should not continue at that scale … The states and territories will be moving to put in place the appropriate arrangements under state-based legislation to ensure that is supported.”

The rules do not include train stations, shopping centres or markets, but the national cabinet is set to meet again on Tuesday night to consider more restrictions on enclosed areas.

One pressing concern for Australia’s health officials is that countries where the virus is escalating, such as Italy and Spain, are in the northern hemisphere.

“What is different about Australia is that we are not yet in winter,” Mr Kelly said.

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