Federal and NSW government Covid-19 shutdown extends to Upper Hunter

PLEASE LISTEN: Prime Minister Scott Morrison is urging people to take their own and other's health seriously as new social restrictions are implemented due to COVID-19.
PLEASE LISTEN: Prime Minister Scott Morrison is urging people to take their own and other's health seriously as new social restrictions are implemented due to COVID-19.

AS of noon Monday, many non-essential services across the nation closed their doors as the federal government announced a shutdown to battle the outbreak of COVID-19.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed businesses such as pubs, clubs, gyms, indoor sporting venues, cinemas, entertainment venues and casinos would have to temporarily cease operations.

Cafes and restaurants will be allowed to continue but are restricted to take away orders and home deliveries, while places of worship and religious gatherings will be halted, aside from small funerals and weddings that apply by the four square-metre per person social distancing rule.

Supermarkets, convenient stores, pharmacies and retail are among the sectors that have been listed as essential, although Mr Morrison warned the shutdown was only in its first stage, and further regulations may be put into place if people do not listen or novel coronavirus cases do not slow down in coming weeks.

The announcement was made on Sunday night following a National Cabinet meeting, with a number of state and territory leaders then revealing their own shutdown measures the next day.

One of the most divisive issues to be spoken about was the future of schools, which is being handled differently on a state-to-state basis.

While addressing the media on Monday morning, New South Wales (NSW) Premier Gladys Berejiklian stated schools would remain open, but parents were encouraged to keep their children home, where an online unit of work has been set up to ensure the continuing education of students.

While the federal government's expert medical advice is advising that schools remain open, Ms Berejiklian said it was practical for pupils to remain home given 30 per cent were already doing so.

However, it was made clear no students will be turned away from schools, and any parents who are unable to organise home-care arrangements would be free to treat the rest of the term as normal.

The likes of St James' Primary School Muswellbrook, St Joseph's High School Aberdeen and Merriwa Central kept their gates open on Monday and attempted to provide a sense of normality in what are very uncertain times.

There are currently three weeks remaining until the first holidays of the NSW school year, although locals will be advised not to travel large distances in that time .

"After consulting with premiers and chief ministers overnight, we have decided that we are moving immediately to recommend against all non-essential travel in Australia," said Mr Morrison.

"All non-essential travel should be cancelled."

As of Tuesday, March 24, border restrictions will be in effect for South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Queensland and the Northern Territory, with all visitors being required to self-isolate for 14 days - unless they have been granted a special exemption.

The silver lining of this could be that money will be spent locally, which will be required as employers fight to remain open and avoid putting off staff over the coming months.

"Support your local business, do what you can to keep the businesses open," Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen said.

"Be patient with them and support them because it keeps people employed and it keeps the businesses open."

New initiatives, such as delivery services, will be launched in some areas across the region in coming days in the hope of providing avenues for eateries to continue their service.

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