UPDATE: The list of restricted shops is changing from 12:00AM Thursday, 26 March. You can access the full and expanded list, as well as an explanation of what might be next, here.
Tens of thousands of Australian businesses will be forced to shut down or curtail their operations from midday today after federal and state governments unveiled unprecedented new social controls in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.
In measures expected to significantly worsen the economic impact of the ongoing pandemic, entire industries will be restricted from trading, including pubs, licenced clubs, gyms, indoor sporting venues, cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos and nightclubs.
Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and home delivery under the measures, unveiled by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday afternoon.
“Leaders acknowledged that these new restrictions will change the way we live and expressed deep regret for those business owners and employees who will be impacted,” a statement circulated by the Prime Minister’s office on Sunday reads.
“The goal is to reduce the spread of the virus, to flatten the curve and to save the lives of fellow Australians.”
Business operations deemed ‘essential services’, including supermarkets and petrol stations, will remain open, while industries not specifically outlined by state and federal officials remain free to trade.
This means most general retail operations will still be allowed to trade, although officials are asking firms to respect social distancing guidance and allow staff to work from home where possible.
Bottle shops, including parts of restricted businesses which operate as bottle shops, are also not subject to restrictions.
The “stage one” measures, which the federal government expects to be in place for at least six months, were announced hours after both the Victorian and NSW state governments unveiled shutdowns of “all non-essential activity” in the coming two days, spurring confusion about the scope of the restrictions.
In subsequent statements issued Monday morning, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian clarified, confirming business shutdowns in their states would run broadly along the same lines as Commonwealth guidance.
“If your industry, business or venue is not on the list you can continue to operate, however, we do recommend where possible that people work from home to reduce the social interaction and ensure social distancing is respected and maintained,” Berejiklian told a Sydney press conference on Monday.
The businesses required to shut down
- Pubs, registered and licenced clubs (excluding bottle shops attached to these venues), hotels (excluding accommodation);
- Gyms and indoor sporting venues;
- Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos, and night clubs;
- Religious gatherings, places of worship or funerals (other than small groups with social distancing); and
- Restaurants and cafes (restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery).
Independent businesses in Victoria and NSW began taking to social media on Monday to inform customers about the impending shutdowns.
View this post on Instagram
Hey guys just wanted to reassure our customers we will be operating as normal today till midday for all your needs. Takeaway will be available till 2.30 for food and 3 for coffee. We would love to thank all our customers and local businesses in these difficult times. It’s not the best time to be a business owner but the right measures have been put in place by our government from a society point of view. Please stay posted for more information about operating hours after the lockout laws are enforced today. Thank you all once again
Many, including Attica restaurant in Melbourne, have started launching delivery services to guarantee a revenue stream during the restrictions.
Officials at the state and federal levels said the latest restrictions, which follow the implementation of social distancing measures, have been brought in to further curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, amid concern Australians were not adhering to health warnings.
“If people simply behave as normal, if they don’t take this seriously, if they act selfishly, then people will die. I can’t be any clearer than that,” Andrews told a Melbourne press conference on Monday.
Andrews said business restrictions in Victoria would last through to April 13, appearing to contradict Commonwealth guidance of a six-month shutdown.
Victoria gave effect to the restrictions through a direction from the Deputy Chief Health Officer, Annaliese van Diemen, which outlines financial penalties for non-compliance of almost $20,000 for individuals and almost $100,000 for corporations.
Countries such as Italy, France and Germany have ordered all non-essential businesses in their own jurisdictions to close over the last week as mounting efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus in Europe continue.
While Australian governments have thus far stopped short of a wholesale shutdown in non-essential business activity, Morrison said further restrictions will be considered based on medical advice.
Underscoring the economic impact of the latest measures, the Australian market fell more than 8% on Monday morning, with stocks in companies such as franchise giant Retail Food Group hit particularly hard.