explainer

No weddings and a form to leave the house: What a Stage 4 COVID-19 shutdown could look like.

This week, we’re all getting used to the new guidelines that have been introduced to slow the spread of COVID-19.

On Sunday night, Prime Minister Scott Morrison introduced a ‘two-person public gathering limit’. The Prime Minister also advised that all Australians are to stay at home except for absolutely necessary reasons.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has gone a step further, announcing that the state is now at ‘Stage Three’ restrictions. Under the new restrictions, individuals can be fined up to $1600 if they gather in groups of more than two people, other than their own household.

“Victoria Police will not hesitate to take action against you. That is how serious this is,” Andrews said on Monday.

“If you are having friends over for dinner or friends over for drinks that are not members of your household, then you are breaking the law.”

In NSW, police can give out on-the-spot fines of $1000 to people leaving their home without an “essential” reason. Those reasons include work (if a person can’t work from home), school, shopping for food and essential items, medical care and exercise.

Watch: Scott Morrison’s press conference from Sunday night. Post continues below. 

Video by Nine News

So, how much further could things go?

If Victoria is at stage three, what would a stage four lockdown look like in Australia?

It’s hard to know exactly, but perhaps the best thing to do is to look at New Zealand’s example. As of midnight on March 25, New Zealand has been on level four of its four-level COVID-19 alert system. Here are just some of the restrictions they’ve put in place:

  • Everyone has to stay at home, except those providing essential services (a short list includes medicine, healthcare, food, fuel, waste removal, internet and financial support). Trips to supermarkets/convenience stores and pharmacies are allowed, and people can exercise, but everyone must stay local.
  • People should only make physical contact with those that they live with.
  • Takeaway services are closed. Convenience stores are not allowed to sell food prepared on premises and must operate on a “one in, one out” basis. Groceries can be delivered, but not pre-cooked food.
  • All places where people congregate, such as cafes and playgrounds, are closed.
  • Social gatherings such as birthdays and weddings cannot go ahead. Funerals can continue, but only people from the same “self-isolation bubble” as the deceased person can go to the funeral home and cemetery, and only if they’re in the same region.
  • All schools and early childhood education centres are closed. Essential workers are asked to make their own childcare arrangements, but if they can’t, alternative arrangements will be made.
  • Most medical consultations will be over the phone or by video conference.

“Every move you make could be a risk to someone else,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said as she announced the restrictions. “That is how we must all collectively think now.”

Different countries have introduced different restrictions with their lockdowns.

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In the UK, which has recorded a coronavirus death toll of more than 1400, people are told they shouldn’t be meeting up with friends or family unless they live in the same household, and they’re only allowed to go outside to exercise once a day.

Police have been using drones to check up on whether people are meeting up in public places. Derbyshire police even added black dye to a famous local landmark called the Blue Lagoon to deter people from visiting in groups.

Listen to The Quicky, Mamamia’s daily news podcast, where host Claire Murphy chats to three women about what lockdown feels like around the world.  Post continues below.

Vulnerable people in the UK have been asked to isolate themselves at home for 12 weeks. Food parcels and medication will be dropped off to those who have no family or friends to help out.

In Italy, where the coronavirus death toll has topped 11,000, the lockdown has been going on for weeks.

If people want to leave the house, they must complete a self-declaration form giving a reason for travel, with valid reasons including work, health and buying food. As of the beginning of last week, Italian police had already charged more than 90,000 people with breaking the rules. In some places, the army has been brought in to patrol the streets.

In Lombardy, the hardest-hit region of Italy, people have been told they’re no longer allowed to go outside to exercise. An exception has been made for walking dogs, but dog walkers aren’t allowed to go more than 200m from their home.

Meanwhile, here in Australia, with no “stage four” restrictions clearly set out, we’ll need to wait and listen, day by day, to find out what we’re allowed to do.

Will Australia go into lockdown?

It remains to be seen.

The National Cabinet — a body of state and federal leaders — is meeting several times a week to coordinate the response to the pandemic, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison has so far been reluctant to use the ‘L’ word.

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), which advises the National Cabinet on how to respond to the pandemic, said lockdown would be the next logical phase, including the closure of schools to all but the children of essential service providers.

“The next step, if required, is likely to be a carefully considered closure of all activity except essential industries and services,” it said in a statement last week.

“All states and territories are in agreement with the above position, except Victoria, who expressed the desire for even stronger measures at this time.”

Feature Image: Getty.

For more on COVID-19

To protect yourself and the community from COVID-19, remain in your home unless strictly necessary, keep at least 1.5 metres away from other people, regularly wash your hands and avoid touching your face.

If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000. 

To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website.

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