Australia has closed its borders to anyone who is not a citizen, a permanent resident or their immediate family, taking decisive action as coronavirus numbers passed 600.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the ban on non-Australians on Thursday, to take effect at 9pm on Friday, allowing people who are already in the air to land.
Australia has progressively shut down its borders, banning people first from China, then Iraq, South Korea and Italy. On Sunday, it imposed a compulsory 14-day quarantine for anyone arriving in Australia, including citizens. Now, citizens, permanent residents and immediate family members will be allowed in with the self-isolation period, but everyone else is banned.
It comes as Qantas announced that international flights would be suspended from the end of March, other than some flights to help people get home. Qantas is standing down 20,000 workers, two-thirds of its workforce, asking them to take leave where possible, including up to four weeks in advance. So fast are things moving that Qantas's decision came just two days after it slashed international flights by 90 per cent.
Mr Morrison said 80 per cent of coronavirus cases Australia were in people who had traveled from overseas or been in direct contact with a traveller.
On Wednesday, Mr Morrison told Australians, "Do not travel abroad, do not go overseas. That is a very clear instruction."
But the order is effectively moot, with many countries now shutting their borders and no flights.
Amid the momentous social and economic upheaval, the Reserve Bank took unprecedented measures to keep financial markets afloat and ensure banks are prepared to continue lending to businesses, establishing a $90 billion fund at a fixed interest rate from which they can borrow.
With estimates of 180,000 job losses in the coming weeks and small businesses across Canberra and the country already laying off staff, the government is preparing a major extension of welfare payments and relaxation of the rules that force people on the dole to apply for 20 jobs a month and meet other obligations.
Mr Morrison conceded that the focus was no longer on getting people off Newstart into jobs.
"We understand over the next six months, that is a certainly very different economy. When circumstances change, you need to adjust your packages to reflect that," he said. "We will have more to say about this in the not too distant future."
The welfare package and more support for sole traders and businesses is expected to be announced over the weekend before Parliament meets on Monday. Parliament is meeting in a truncated and shortened format, with only essential staff and limited numbers of MPs and Senators coming to Canberra.
Mr Morrison said, "We're looking at those issues around income support. We're looking at the issues around people's obligations. And working really constructively, whether it's with the banks or whether it's with businesses or others to ensure that we're putting them in a stronger position to look after people. Where they're not in a position to be able to do that, then the government is stepping up where they can to try and cushion that impact," he said.
Last week, the government announced a $22.9 billion package of grants and tax breaks for businesses to encourage them to keep staff on and invest in new equipment. But things have moved fast, and Treasurer Josh Fyrdenberg said the second package would be substantially different.
"We have seen the economic impact, globally as well as here in Australia, become much more significant than was evident even just a week or two weeks ago. And so our second package is designed to support, in the words of the Prime Minister, to cushion the challenge being faced by many Australians through this. That includes backing small business."
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