Stage 3 coronavirus restrictions: Australia to allow more than 100 indoors from July

Morrison and Murphy




Under new rules in Australia when states and territories choose to enter stage 3 of eased restrictions, a limit of 100 people in indoor gatherings will no longer apply.
Photograph: Sam Mooy/Getty Images

From July Australians could enjoy gatherings of more than 100 people indoors and up to 10,000 outdoors at ticketed concerts, festivals and sporting events as part of new relaxed physical distancing rules.

On Friday the national cabinet met and agreed to more generous caps on events in the third stage of eased restrictions and a pilot to allow international students to come study at approved institutions from July.

As the Queensland government confirmed it intended to reopen from 10 July and the South Australia government announced it would do so from 20 July, Scott Morrison continued to pressure states and suggested that only Western Australia might miss the July deadline to reopen.

Under the new rules, when states and territories choose to enter the third stage of eased restrictions, a limit of 100 people on indoor gatherings will no longer apply.

Instead, venues including pubs, clubs, restaurants and places of worship, and events including funerals, will apply a four-square-metre rule in each room, which Morrison said would give larger venues a “much larger scope” for higher patronage and attendance.

Outdoors, sport and cultural gatherings would be allowed for ticketed, seated venues with fewer than 40,000 seats at one-quarter capacity – meaning crowds of up to 10,000 could attend outdoor concerts or sport matches at mid-sized suburban stadiums or ovals.

Two weeks after the resumption of the NRL and one day after the resumption of the AFL, Morrison signalled that further exemptions could be made for larger venues such as the MCG.

“For the larger ones I would venture that it would be the subject of a discrete approval for each venue that would be worked out with the chief health officer in each state or territory,” he said.

The new rules would mean “that people will be able to watch the games, not as cardboard cutouts but in person, should they be fortunate enough to get one of those seats”.

Morrison announced that national cabinet had agreed that from July “international students [will] be able to come to Australia but only on pre-approved plans for particular institutions” on a pilot basis, after agreement between state and federal authorities.

“But I made clear to the states and territories today, if someone can’t come to your state from Sydney, then someone can’t come to your state from Singapore,” he said. “If you want to open up borders for international students, then you have to open up borders for Australians.”

Border disputes are one of the last remaining sticking points in reopening the economy, with mining billionaire Clive Palmer and travel businesses backed by One Nation challenging the Western Australian and Queensland travel bans in the high court.

Asked about whether all states will be open in July, Morrison replied that the only state or territory that is unlikely to meet the timeline “is still possibly Western Australia”.

Morrison said WA premier Mark McGowan had argued that maintaining the border ban had enabled the state to achieve every other eased restriction in stage three, and noted that he had committed to re-examine the ban.

In question time, Morrison praised the Queensland government for having “torn down that wall” by nominating 10 July as its date to reopen.

With all parliamentarians back in Canberra, MPs and senators met for a rare Friday sitting, observing strict social distancing in the House of Representatives and Senate chambers.

But some have expressed private concerns that physical distancing is not being observed on special purpose flights carrying politicians to and from Canberra, particularly while boarding and collecting baggage.

The chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, told reporters in Canberra that physical distancing of 1.5m, or four square metres “is not possible” on domestic flights, which he said “present quite a low risk of transmission” because of their treatment of cabin air.

“We have not seen a clear case of transmission of the virus on a domestic flight in Australia,” he said.

Airlines are now “occupying their seats more fully” and it is “not unreasonable” to wear a mask on a flight, he said.

Asked if he had warned the population minister, Alan Tudge, and others about the need to practise social distancing on his recent flight from Melbourne, Murphy replied: “I certainly have not warned any politician about not practising social distancing.”

Morrison said he had on occasion had to “warn the media they aren’t practising social distancing”.

Earlier, Murphy said that despite easing restrictions one month ago, Australia’s health results continued to show successful suppression of Covid-19 and effective elimination in some places.

Australia has had just 38 new cases in the past week, with more than half of those returned overseas travellers, Murphy said.

Morrison said national cabinet had agreed to form six subcommittees on rural and regional policy, skills, infrastructure and transport, population and migration, energy and health. On 29 May Morrison had suggested a seventh subcommittee – on housing.

At a press conference in Adelaide, the South Australian premier, Steven Marshall, announced the state would also bring forward its move into stage three from 3 July to 29 June.

The Australian Capital Territory chief minister, Andrew Barr, announced that from 19 June venues would have a new occupancy limit of 100 people per enclosed space, with theatres, cinemas and concert venues also able to reopen.