The Government has ramped up the social distancing rules all Australians should now stick to in an attempt to quell the spread of coronavirus.
While indoor gatherings of fewer than 100 people are still allowed, the new guidelines say there needs to be at least four square metres available for every person in the area.
Here’s what that will mean for you and for your local bars and restaurants.
What did Scott Morrison actually say?
These were the Prime Minister’s exact words when announcing the new measures earlier today:
“Earlier, I announced the 100-person limit on non-essential indoor gatherings, and I went through the list of those things that were essential. I won’t do that again today. It is the same list.
“But what we are now moving to is an arrangement for gatherings of less than 100, is that there would be 4 square metres provided per person in an enclosed space, in a room. So that’s 2 metres by 2 metres.
“So for example, if you’ve got a room, if you’ve got a premises, if you’ve got a meeting room or something like that, that is 100 square metres, then you can have 25 people in that room.
“Now, in addition to that, you should continue to practise wherever possible the 1 metre or 1.5 metres of healthy distance between each of us, to ensure that we are limiting the contact and limiting the potential for the spread of the virus.”
What does that mean for me?
It means that if you are looking at hosting or attending an event in an indoor space, you need to be very conscious of how big that space is.
As Mr Morrison said, if your indoor space is 100 metres square, for example 10 metres by 10 metres, you can only have 25 people in it. If your space is 400 metres square, you can have 100 people in it.
The rule banning non-essential indoor gatherings of 100 or more people remains in place.
Does this mean I need to stay further away from people?
No, these new guidelines do not seem to alter the day-to-day social distancing guidelines that have been in place for a while now.
As Dr Brendan Murphy said, there’s “no point having a gathering of 20 people if it’s in tiny room and you’re all together”. These measures are related to the number of people in an indoor space, rather than the more general person-to-person distancing advice previously offered.
You should still be trying to keep 1.5 metres away from people at all times, and avoiding any handshakes or physical contact with people outside your family.
Outdoor gatherings of 500 or more people are still banned.
What constitutes an indoor gathering?
The Government has classified an indoor gathering as something that “takes place within a single enclosed area (a single room or area)“.
But there are places where the restrictions do not apply.
- Health care settings
- Food shops
- Public transport
The Government has specified that the “fewer than 100 people” and new spacing limit rules do apply in these places and situations:
- Cinemas and theatres
- Restaurants, cafes, pubs and clubs
When will these updated rules be put in place?
Immediately, it seems.
Mr Morrison was a little vague on this, but given he did not state a starting time for the rules — which he has clearly done for all other measures that have been announced in advance — it is fair to assume the rules are in place from now.
We hope to be able to provide more clarity soon.
How will businesses deal with this change?
To some extent that remains to be seen, but some restauranteurs aren’t particularly happy about the updated guidelines.
Clare Kellam from Montrachet in Brisbane said the decision was “ridiculous”, considering schools were still open and council elections still looked to be going ahead.
“It just makes it harder to keep the doors open than before. We are assessing figures and our strategy every 12 hours now,” Ms Kellam said.
“It makes me angry because all these impositions come without necessary support.”
Restaurant and Caterers Association chief executive Wes Lambert said some restaurants may have to look at delivery and takeaway to stay alive.
“Each business is different and each needs to look at the effect one person per four metres will have on their business,” he said.
“And they then have to make a decision about how viable it is to stay open and have bums on seats or change their offer.
“Even a restaurant with a small floor space can easily do takeaway meals, and just say to patrons that only eight to 10 people can wait inside at a time, depending on the size of the restaurant.”
Queensland Hotels Association chief executive Bernie Hogan said it was a very difficult day for the hospitality industry.
“Our staff are like family in most of our businesses and it’s very difficult to see a situation where so many of them are affected so quickly,” Mr Hogan said.
“Public health has to come number one and we are 100 per cent behind our Government trying to do the right thing by our citizens.
“We haven’t been able to plan for this and it’s very difficult for many people across the nation.”