Australian Government Enacts Biosecurity Act in COVID-19 Crisis

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Today, the Australian government joined many other countries in officially announcing measures to help contain the COVID 19 virus from spreading. Prime Minister Scott Morrison made an early morning announcement, addressing the Australian community, requesting a ‘common sense’ approach.

Prime Minister Morrison assured the nation while offering transparency on the situation, something many other nations’ peoples are not seeing. Six months, Morrison states. Australia must prepare for a six month minimum impact, with it most likely to be longer, to fight the virus.

Essentially, war time measures have now been enacted. More specifically, the little known Biosecurity Act (2015) has been enabled for the first time in Australian history, restricting individual movement. This means no more overseas travel indefinitely, and upgrades travel bans to a Level 4 that is applicable to the entire world.

Other measures include enacting measures to enable some 20 thousand international nursing students already on Australian soil to go into the health sector and provide qualified health professionals additional professional support.

This also includes a ban on non-essential gatherings indoors and outdoors. If outdoors, the ban is applicable to 500 or more people. If indoors, it applies to 100. Social distancing must also be enforced as a common sense procedure at all times.

Prime Minister Morrison emphasises the measures must be “scalable and sustainable” to ensure the best outcomes. To go into immediate lockdown or to close schools would mean a six month disruption, that some psychologists and psychiatrists would agree, would be difficult to maintain for the individual.

Although it seems counter-intuitive, schools will remain open, with the fears of school closures impacting on the availability of health professionals by some 30 percent. Morrison does implore parents, if children are unwell, do not send them to school. It is the individual’s responsibility as a parent.

“Whatever we do, we’ve gotta do for at least six months. Six months. So that means the disruption that would occur from the closure of schools around this country, make no mistake, would be severe.

What do I mean by severe? Tens of thousands of jobs could be lost, if not more. The impact on the availability of health workers, a 30 percent impact on the availability of health workers is our advice. That will put people’s lives at risk.”

The Prime Minister continued, “There is a national public interest here, in keeping schools open, and the advice is that [it is] not being done at the detriment of the health of any child,” stating if the situation changes then so will the measures. This modelling is also based on the model that Singapore has used, a nation most successful in managing and containing the virus.

Restriction to aged care facilities have been put in place to manage and restrict visitation, and public ANZAC day events are cancelled for 2020, putting in place arrangements to protect the older community. A national ANZAC event will be televised from Canberra, but will not permit public gatherings.

The discouragement of hoarding was blunt. “Stop doing it,’ Morrison stated bluntly. It is unnecessary, he explains. Without hoarding, supply chains would be normal. “It is un-Australian.”

“On bulk purchasing of supplies. Stop hoarding,” he said. “I can’t be more blunt about it. Stop it.”

While other nations are going into lockdown, and touting 14-day measures as though the virus will disappear within a fortnight or a few weeks, the blunt message from the Australian Prime Minister is that this is a long-term emergency that must be “scalable” and more importantly “sustainable.”

Sustainable for the economy, sustainable for the health of the community and which is practical for many who would not cope with a six-month lockdown.

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