Australia is headed for a shutdown, it’s just a question of how fast

Australia is headed for a shutdown, it's just a question of how fast

The latest round of spending will be more about economic support than stimulus. It will focus on those sectors most affected by the restrictions being imposed to try to flatten the spread of the virus – hospitality, tourism, maybe airlines.

The government is operating on the assumption this crisis will run for six months. It also knows it’s easier to shut something down than to start it up again.

There is a lot being said about schools being closed.

As ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said on Monday, if you shut schools, that may well be it for the rest of the year. With grandparents off limits, a great deal of the workforce, including frontline health workers, would have to stay home to look after the kids.

“People need to understand that this is not something that is resolved by a couple of weeks of quarantine,” Barr said.

None of this is easy. There is no manual for state and federal governments.

They know every time they impose new restrictions to preserve public health, they are also snuffing out the livelihoods of thousands, often immediately.

The bans on outdoor gatherings of more than 500, and an expected soon-to-be announced ban on indoor gatherings of more than 100, have killed within days thousands of small and medium businesses that rely on such events – entertainers, caterers, equipment hire companies, merchandisers and so on.

People sneered when the NRL stuck its hand out on Sunday but think of the thousands whose jobs are in the orbits of the football codes.

The decision on Sunday by the Prime Minister and state and territory leaders, to effectively shut the country’s borders by imposing mandatory self-isolation for all overseas arrivals, was not arrived at easily. But in the end the health concerns must prevail.

Of one thing we can be sure. There will be more restrictions to come.

The government is trying to stagger them as best as it can without compromising health.

As one senior official said: “The country is going to be shut down but if we shut it all down now, it’s shut down for six months.”

The economic forecast is terrible – hundreds of thousands out of work with no means to pay their mortgages, rent or other bills.

The health numbers are worse. The figures released on Sunday by Morrison were sobering.

Civil unrest is a concern. With fewer than 300 infected, people have lost their minds and brawled in supermarkets over toilet paper. Imagine when thousands of cases are presenting each day.

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