Casino, pubs, clubs, restaurants to close; schools to stay open

Sunday 22nd March 2020

TERRITORY schools will remain open but pubs, clubs, restaurants and the Mindil Beach Casino resort will close from midday on Monday.

The federal and state governments have ordered clubs, pubs, casinoes, churches and cinemas to close in a bid to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders on Sunday agreed that from noon on Monday there would be new restrictions on a range of indoor venues.

"We now need to take action because we cannot have the confidence as a group of leaders that the social distancing guidelines and rules that we have put in place won't be followed to the level of compliance that we require to flatten the curve and slow the spread and save lives," Mr Morrison said.

While schools will remain open for now until school holidays, Mr Morrison warned schools could be closed for the entire year if Australians don't co-operate with authorities to stem the spread of the virus.

Mr Morrison warned it would not be school holidays as usual and the actions taken by parents and children over the break would have broad impacts.

"There will not be trips interstate ... there will not be congregating up at the trampoline venue or whatever it happens to be," he said.

"It won't be a holiday as anyone has ever known it.

"The decisions that parents make, that we all make, over the course of the next few weeks in particular could very seriously determine the trajectory that Australia continues to go on in relation to the coronavirus."

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said the risk to schoolchildren from the virus was very low.

"The consensus view of all of the chief health officers is schools should stay open," he said.

Victorian and ACT schools are set to close on Tuesday, with the state and territory bringing forward the Easter holiday break.

Mr Morrison said the states and territories could be forced to take severe measures if Australians continued to ignore warnings to maintain safe distances from other people, stay home from work if sick, and limit travel. "If there is not a broad co-operation in the population ... states will have to take more severe measures," Mr Morrison told ABC television on Sunday night.

"(The restrictions) just won't be for a couple of weeks. I mean kids could lose their entire year of school. That's what's at stake here. "

Mr Morrison said in an earlier interview his family was heeding current medical advice.

"My kids will be going to school in the morning and ... we will be following the medical advice," Mr Morrison said.

"For those health workers and others, a complete closure of schools across the country would take out 30 per cent of our health workforce.

"Now, you could imagine what the health impact would be."

Chief Minister Michael Gunner is expected to make a public statement shortly.

Territory public and Catholic schools are scheduled to finish Term 1 on Thursday, April 9 and go on holidays until April 20.

Haileybury Rendall and Essington schools finish Term 1 on Friday, April 3 and return on April 21.

Essington International School principal Brian Kennelly said while his school would only shut if directed to by the government, he had been preparing for the eventuality of online learning "if and when that happens".

"We're conscious that there's a lot of rumours and talk about what will happen in Australia but if you look overseas and see what's happening over there and the preventive action that most westernised countries are following is that schools are closing," he said.

Mr Kennelly said while classes were still going well the impossibility of social distancing in most classrooms was a concern.

"If you do the maths it's four square metres per person, that means if you've got a class of 25 you need a classroom which is 10 metres by 10 metres and the majority of classrooms around -- that I know of anyway -- are not that large," he said.

"The fact that social distancing is not applying to schools means that there's a vulnerability for the kids and there's a vulnerability for teaching staff, that is a concern to me as an educator."

Haileybury Rendall principal Craig Glass told the NT News: "At this stage Haileybury Rendall School is following the advice of the NT and Federal Governments."

"We are putting in place plans to move the School to online learning for all year levels," he said.

"We have been planning this for a few weeks and will be ready to implement if there is a school closure. Our aim is to remain open until the end of term."

Association of Independent Schools NT president, Gail Barker, said her organisation was not planning to follow the southern states' lead unless required by the Territory or federal governments.

"The plan is as per what happened down south in a couple of schools where there had been someone identified in a school that had coronavirus and that person has been to the school," she said.

"Then the Health Department comes and asssesses the situation and the school would normally be closed until a plan has been put in place if there's not one in place."

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