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COVID-19 pandemic in Australia

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COVID-19 pandemic in Australia
COVID-19 outbreak Australia per capita cases map.svg
Confirmed cases per 100,000 residents by state or territory
COVID-19 Outbreak Cases in Australia (Density).svg
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 by state or territory
  5000+ confirmed cases
  500–4999 confirmed cases
  50–499 confirmed cases
  5–49 confirmed cases
Virus strainSARS-CoV-2
First outbreakWuhan, Hubei, China
Index caseMelbourne, Victoria
Arrival date25 January 2020
(11 months, 3 weeks and 6 days)
Confirmed cases28,750[1]
Active cases170[1]
Hospitalised cases32[1]
Critical cases1[1]
Fatality rate3.16%
Government website

The COVID-19 pandemic in Australia is part of the ongoing worldwide pandemic of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first confirmed case in Australia was identified on 25 January 2020, in Victoria, when a man who had returned from Wuhan, China, tested positive for the virus.[2]

Australian borders were closed to all non-residents on 20 March,[3] and returning residents were required to spend two weeks in supervised quarantine hotels from 27 March.[4] Many individual states and territories also closed their borders to varying degrees, with some remaining closed until late 2020.[5] Social distancing rules were imposed on 21 March, and state governments started to close "non-essential" services.[6][7] "Non-essential services" included social gathering venues such as pubs and clubs but unlike many other countries did not include most business operations such as construction, manufacturing and many retail categories.[8] The number of new cases initially grew sharply, then levelled out at about 350 per day around 22 March, and started falling at the beginning of April to under 20 cases per day by the end of the month.[1]

A second wave of infections emerged in Victoria during May and June, which was attributed to an outbreak at a Melbourne quarantine hotel. The second wave, though largely localised to Melbourne, was much more widespread and deadlier than the first; at its peak, the state had over 7,000 active cases.[9] Victoria underwent a second strict lockdown which eventually lasted almost four months.[10] The wave ended with zero new cases being recorded on 26 October.[11][12][13]

As of 21 January 2021, Australia has reported 28,750 cases, 25,943 recoveries, and 909 deaths, with Victoria's second wave accounting for nearly 75 percent of cases and 90 percent of fatalities.[1] The stated goal of the National Cabinet is "zero community transmission", in contrast to the mitigation strategies implemented by most other nations.[14] Compared to other Western countries, notably the United States and European countries, Australia's handling has been praised for its effectiveness.[15][16][17]


A novel coronavirus that caused a respiratory illness was identified in Wuhan, Hubei, China, in December 2019, and was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on 31 December 2019, which confirmed its concern on 12 January 2020.[18][19] WHO declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January,[20] and a pandemic on 11 March.[21]

The case fatality rate of COVID-19 is much lower than that of SARS, a related disease which emerged in 2002,[22][23] but its transmission has been significantly greater, leading to a much greater total death toll.[24][22]


COVID-19 cases in Australia  ()
     Deaths        Recoveries        Active cases        Assumed recoveries
Last 15 daysLast 15 days
# of cases
# of deaths
29(n.a.) 1(n.a.)
33(+14%) 1(=)
40(+21%) 1(=)
51(+28%) 2(+100%)
59(+16%) 2(=)
63(+6.8%) 2(=)
73(+16%) 2(=)
78(+6.8%) 3(+50%)
91(+17%) 3(=)
112(+23%) 3(=)
128(+14%) 3(=)
156(+22%) 3(=)
198(+27%) 3(=)
248(+25%) 3(=)
298(+20%) 5(+67%)
376(+26%) 5(=)
453(+20%) 5(=)
566(+25%) 6(+20%)
708(+25%) 6(=)
875(+24%) 7(+17%)
1,071(+22%) 7(=)
1,352(+26%) 7(=)
1,716(+27%) 7(=)
2,146(+25%) 8(+14%)
2,431(+13%) 9(+12%)
2,805(+15%) 13(+44%)
3,179(+13%) 13(=)
3,637(+14%) 14(+7.7%)
3,985(+9.6%) 16(+14%)
4,250(+6.6%) 18(+12%)
4,560(+7.3%) 19(+5.6%)
4,864(+6.7%) 21(+11%)
5,136(+5.6%) 24(+14%)
5,358(+4.3%) 28(+17%)
5,552(+3.6%) 30(+7.1%)
5,687(+2.4%) 34(+13%)
5,795(+1.9%) 39(+15%)
5,908(+1.9%) 45(+15%)
6,013(+1.8%) 50(+11%)
6,103(+1.5%) 51(+2%)
6,203(+1.6%) 53(+3.9%)
6,292(+1.4%) 56(+5.7%)
6,313(+0.33%) 59(+5.4%)
6,359(+0.73%) 61(+3.4%)
6,400(+0.64%) 61(=)
6,447(+0.73%) 63(+3.3%)
6,468(+0.33%) 63(=)
6,523(+0.85%) 65(+3.2%)
6,565(+0.64%) 68(+4.6%)
6,606(+0.62%) 70(+2.9%)
6,619(+0.2%) 71(+1.4%)
6,645(+0.39%) 71(=)
6,649(+0.06%) 74(+4.2%)
6,661(+0.18%) 75(+1.4%)
6,675(+0.21%) 78(+4%)
6,695(+0.3%) 80(+2.6%)
6,711(+0.24%) 83(+3.8%)
6,720(+0.13%) 83(=)
6,731(+0.16%) 84(+1.2%)
6,746(+0.22%) 89(+6%)
6,753(+0.1%) 91(+2.2%)
6,767(+0.21%) 93(+2.2%)
6,783(+0.24%) 93(=)
6,801(+0.27%) 95(+2.2%)
6,825(+0.35%) 95(=)
6,849(+0.35%) 96(+1.1%)
6,875(+0.38%) 97(+1%)
6,896(+0.31%) 97(=)
6,914(+0.26%) 97(=)
6,929(+0.22%) 97(=)
6,941(+0.17%) 97(=)
6,948(+0.1%) 97(=)
6,964(+0.23%) 97(=)
6,975(+0.16%) 98(+1%)
6,989(+0.2%) 98(=)
7,019(+0.43%) 98(=)
7,036(+0.24%) 98(=)
7,045(+0.13%) 98(=)
7,060(+0.21%) 99(+1%)
7,068(+0.11%) 99(=)
7,079(+0.16%) 100(+1%)
7,081(+0.03%) 100(=)
7,095(+0.2%) 101(+1%)
7,106(+0.16%) 102(+0.99%)
7,109(+0.04%) 102(=)
7,118(+0.13%) 102(=)
7,133(+0.21%) 102(=)
7,139(+0.08%) 103(+0.98%)
7,150(+0.15%) 103(=)
7,173(+0.32%) 103(=)
7,185(+0.17%) 103(=)
7,195(+0.14%) 103(=)
7,204(+0.13%) 103(=)
7,221(+0.24%) 102(−0.97%)
7,229(+0.11%) 102(=)
7,240(+0.15%) 102(=)
7,251(+0.15%) 102(=)
7,255(+0.06%) 102(=)
7,260(+0.07%) 102(=)
7,265(+0.07%) 102(=)
7,267(+0.03%) 102(=)
7,276(+0.12%) 102(=)
7,285(+0.12%) 102(=)
7,290(+0.07%) 102(=)
7,302(+0.16%) 102(=)
7,320(+0.25%) 102(=)
7,335(+0.2%) 102(=)
7,347(+0.16%) 102(=)
7,370(+0.31%) 102(=)
7,391(+0.28%) 102(=)
7,409(+0.24%) 102(=)
7,436(+0.36%) 102(=)
7,461(+0.34%) 102(=)
7,474(+0.17%) 102(=)
7,492(+0.24%) 102(=)
7,521(+0.39%) 103(+0.98%)
7,558(+0.49%) 104(+0.97%)
7,595(+0.49%) 104(=)
7,641(+0.61%) 104(=)
7,686(+0.59%) 104(=)
7,767(+1.1%) 104(=)
7,834(+0.86%) 104(=)
7,920(+1.1%) 104(=)
8,001(+1%) 104(=)
8,255(+3.2%) 104(=)
8,362(+1.3%) 104(=)
8,449(+1%) 104(=)
8,586(+1.6%) 106(+1.9%)
8,755(+2%) 106(=)
8,886(+1.5%) 106(=)
9,059(+1.9%) 106(=)
9,359(+3.3%) 106(=)
9,553(+2.1%) 107(+0.94%)
9,797(+2.6%) 108(+0.93%)
9,980(+1.9%) 108(=)
10,251(+2.7%) 108(=)
10,495(+2.4%) 111(+2.8%)
10,810(+3%) 113(+1.8%)
11,235(+3.9%) 116(+2.7%)
11,441(+1.8%) 118(+1.7%)
11,802(+3.2%) 122(+3.4%)
12,069(+2.3%) 123(+0.82%)
12,428(+3%) 126(+2.4%)
12,896(+3.8%) 128(+1.6%)
13,306(+3.2%) 133(+3.9%)
13,595(+2.2%) 139(+4.5%)
13,950(+2.6%) 145(+4.3%)
14,403(+3.2%) 155(+6.9%)
14,935(+3.7%) 161(+3.9%)
15,304(+2.5%) 167(+3.7%)
15,582(+1.8%) 176(+5.4%)
16,303(+4.6%) 189(+7.4%)
16,905(+3.7%) 196(+3.7%)
17,282(+2.2%) 200(+2%)
17,923(+3.7%) 208(+4%)
18,318(+2.2%) 221(+6.2%)
18,729(+2.2%) 232(+5%)
19,444(+3.8%) 247(+6.5%)
19,862(+2.1%) 255(+3.2%)
20,272(+2.1%) 266(+4.3%)
20,698(+2.1%) 278(+4.5%)
21,084(+1.9%) 295(+6.1%)
21,397(+1.5%) 313(+6.1%)
21,713(+1.5%) 331(+5.8%)
22,127(+1.9%) 352(+6.3%)
22,358(+1%) 361(+2.6%)
22,743(+1.7%) 375(+3.9%)
23,035(+1.3%) 379(+1.1%)
23,288(+1.1%) 396(+4.5%)
23,559(+1.2%) 421(+6.3%)
23,773(+0.91%) 438(+4%)
23,993(+0.93%) 450(+2.7%)
24,236(+1%) 463(+2.9%)
24,407(+0.71%) 472(+1.9%)
24,602(+0.8%) 485(+2.8%)
24,812(+0.85%) 502(+3.5%)
24,916(+0.42%) 517(+3%)
25,053(+0.55%) 525(+1.5%)
25,205(+0.61%) 549(+4.6%)
25,322(+0.46%) 572(+4.2%)
25,448(+0.5%) 583(+1.9%)
25,547(+0.39%) 600(+2.9%)
25,670(+0.48%) 611(+1.8%)
25,746(+0.3%) 652(+6.7%)
25,819(+0.28%) 657(+0.77%)
25,923(+0.4%) 663(+0.91%)
26,049(+0.49%) 678(+2.3%)
26,136(+0.33%) 737(+8.7%)
26,207(+0.27%) 748(+1.5%)
26,279(+0.27%) 753(+0.67%)
26,322(+0.16%) 762(+1.2%)
26,374(+0.2%) 770(+1%)
26,465(+0.35%) 781(+1.4%)
26,513(+0.18%) 788(+0.9%)
26,565(+0.2%) 797(+1.1%)
26,607(+0.16%) 803(+0.75%)
26,651(+0.17%) 810(+0.87%)
26,692(+0.15%) 816(+0.74%)
26,738(+0.17%) 816(=)
26,779(+0.15%) 824(+0.98%)
26,813(+0.13%) 832(+0.97%)
26,861(+0.18%) 837(+0.6%)
26,885(+0.09%) 844(+0.84%)
26,898(+0.05%) 849(+0.59%)
26,912(+0.05%) 851(+0.24%)
26,942(+0.11%) 854(+0.35%)
26,973(+0.12%) 859(+0.59%)
26,983(+0.04%) 861(+0.23%)
27,000(+0.06%) 869(+0.93%)
27,016(+0.06%) 870(+0.12%)
27,040(+0.09%) 872(+0.23%)
27,044(+0.01%) 875(+0.34%)
27,063(+0.07%) 882(+0.8%)
27,078(+0.06%) 886(+0.45%)
27,096(+0.07%) 888(+0.23%)
27,113(+0.06%) 890(+0.23%)
27,121(+0.03%) 893(+0.34%)
27,136(+0.06%) 894(+0.11%)
27,149(+0.05%) 894(=)
27,174(+0.09%) 895(+0.11%)
27,182(+0.03%) 897(+0.22%)
27,206(+0.09%) 897(=)
27,229(+0.08%) 897(=)
27,244(+0.06%) 897(=)
27,264(+0.07%) 898(+0.11%)
27,286(+0.08%) 898(=)
27,317(+0.11%) 899(+0.11%)
27,341(+0.09%) 904(+0.56%)
27,362(+0.08%) 904(=)
27,371(+0.03%) 904(=)
27,383(+0.04%) 904(=)
27,390(+0.03%) 904(=)
27,399(+0.03%) 905(+0.11%)
27,430(+0.11%) 905(=)
27,444(+0.05%) 905(=)
27,466(+0.08%) 905(=)
27,484(+0.07%) 905(=)
27,499(+0.05%) 905(=)
27,520(+0.08%) 905(=)
27,527(+0.03%) 905(=)
27,541(+0.05%) 905(=)
27,554(+0.05%) 907(+0.22%)
27,569(+0.05%) 907(=)
27,582(+0.05%) 907(=)
27,590(+0.03%) 907(=)
27,595(+0.02%) 907(=)
27,602(+0.03%) 907(=)
27,610(+0.03%) 907(=)
27,622(+0.04%) 907(=)
27,633(+0.04%) 907(=)
27,645(+0.04%) 907(=)
27,652(+0.03%) 907(=)
27,658(+0.02%) 907(=)
27,668(+0.04%) 907(=)
27,678(+0.04%) 907(=)
27,686(+0.03%) 907(=)
27,698(+0.04%) 907(=)
27,703(+0.02%) 907(=)
27,711(+0.03%) 907(=)
27,725(+0.05%) 907(=)
27,750(+0.09%) 907(=)
27,756(+0.02%) 907(=)
27,777(+0.08%) 907(=)
27,784(+0.03%) 907(=)
27,789(+0.02%) 907(=)
27,807(+0.06%) 907(=)
27,821(+0.05%) 907(=)
27,835(+0.05%) 907(=)
27,848(+0.05%) 907(=)
27,854(+0.02%) 907(=)
27,867(+0.05%) 907(=)
27,874(+0.03%) 907(=)
27,885(+0.04%) 907(=)
27,893(+0.03%) 907(=)
27,904(+0.04%) 908(+0.11%)
27,912(+0.03%) 908(=)
27,923(+0.04%) 908(=)
27,939(+0.06%) 908(=)
27,949(+0.04%) 908(=)
27,956(+0.03%) 908(=)
27,965(+0.03%) 908(=)
27,972(+0.03%) 908(=)
27,987(+0.05%) 908(=)
27,993(+0.02%) 908(=)
28,000(+0.03%) 908(=)
28,012(+0.04%) 908(=)
28,025(+0.05%) 908(=)
28,031(+0.02%) 908(=)
28,039(+0.03%) 908(=)
28,047(+0.03%) 908(=)
28,059(+0.04%) 908(=)
28,072(+0.05%) 908(=)
28,094(+0.08%) 908(=)
28,128(+0.12%) 908(=)
28,171(+0.15%) 908(=)
28,198(+0.1%) 908(=)
28,219(+0.07%) 908(=)
28,238(+0.07%) 908(=)
28,262(+0.08%) 908(=)
28,276(+0.05%) 908(=)
28,296(+0.07%) 908(=)
28,312(+0.06%) 908(=)
28,337(+0.09%) 909(+0.11%)
28,350(+0.05%) 909(=)
28,381(+0.11%) 909(=)
28,408(+0.1%) 909(=)
28,427(+0.07%) 909(=)
28,462(+0.12%) 909(=)
28,483(+0.07%) 909(=)
28,504(+0.07%) 909(=)
28,519(+0.05%) 909(=)
28,536(+0.06%) 909(=)
28,547(+0.04%) 909(=)
28,571(+0.08%) 909(=)
28,582(+0.04%) 909(=)
28,595(+0.05%) 909(=)
28,614(+0.07%) 909(=)
28,634(+0.07%) 909(=)
28,650(+0.06%) 909(=)
28,658(+0.03%) 909(=)
28,669(+0.04%) 909(=)
28,689(+0.07%) 909(=)
28,708(+0.07%) 909(=)
28,721(+0.05%) 909(=)
28,730(+0.03%) 909(=)
28,740(+0.03%) 909(=)
28,750(+0.03%) 909(=)
Values from 5 April from the Australian Government Department of Health, reported by 3:00pm AEST daily.[25][26] Active cases from 20 July from the Australian Government Department of Health, reported by 9:00pm AEST daily.[1] Values before 5 April from reliable sources. Cases that have not been reported as recovered, but are also not considered active are classified as assumed recoveries.


This section is an excerpt from Statistics of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia

Australian state/territory[a] Cases[b] Deaths Recoveries Active[c] Hospital[d] Tests Notes
28,750 909 25,956 168 32 12,594,719
Australian Capital Territory 118 3 115 0 0 153,036 [27]
New South Wales 5,084 54 3,236 87 1 4,524,482 [e][f][g] [28][29]
Northern Territory 97 0 89 8 8 95,738 [h] [30]
Queensland 1,300 6 1,261 23 23 1,708,693 [31]
South Australia 596 4 587 5 0 931,274 [32]
Tasmania 234 13 221 0 0 154,963 [i] [33]
Victoria 20,433 820 19,579 34 0 4,321,565 [34]
Western Australia 888 9 868 11 0 704,968 [35]
As of 21 January 2021
  1. ^ Diagnosed in Australia; nationality and location of original infection may vary. Data sourced from state and federal governments; where there are inconsistencies, federal reporting takes precedent. Under National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System reporting requirements, cases are reported based on their Australian jurisdiction of residence rather than where they were detected.
  2. ^ Cumulative reported confirmed cases at time of update. Actual case numbers may be higher.
  3. ^ Active cases based on state definition of active. Does not necessarily equate to the total cases minus deaths and recoveries.
  4. ^ Cumulative hospitalisations. There are around 95,000 hospital beds in Australia (3.8 beds/1000 people).
  5. ^ NSW reporting two Queenslanders who died in NSW.
  6. ^ NSW active cases refer to those that are locally acquired with onset in the last 4 weeks (from 24 June)
  7. ^ NSW total cases and recoveries include 189 historical cases in crew members on board a ship that were subsequently classified as Australian cases and included in NSW totals.
  8. ^ NT reporting one extra case and recovery.
  9. ^ Federal and Tasmanian reporting differ by 2 fewer cases.

The following chart represent changes in net number of cases on a daily basis and is based on the number of cases reported in the Federal Government's daily reports.

Preventive measures

Travel restrictions

COVID-19 travel restrictions for Australians and permanent residents

On 1 February 2020, Australia banned the entry of foreign nationals who had been in mainland China, and ordered its own returning citizens who had been in China to self-quarantine for 14 days.[36] Australia subsequently imposed similar bans on Iran (1 March),[37] South Korea (5 March),[38] and Italy (11 March).[39] From 16 March, all travellers arriving in or returning to Australia were required to self-isolate for 14 days.[40] Failure to self-isolate could result in a fine of A$11,000 to A$50,000 and a possible prison sentence, depending on the state.[41] Cruise ships were also barred from docking in the country for 30 days.[42][43]

On 20 March, Australia closed its borders to all non-residents and non-Australian citizens.[3][44] With limited exceptions, a ban was imposed on Australians travelling overseas.[45]

By late March 2020, 62% of Australia's more than 3,000 coronavirus cases were among people who had returned from overseas. From then, Australians returning from overseas were subject to two weeks compulsory quarantine in hotels. The New South Wales quarantine program was helped by 150 Australian Defence Force personnel, including 30 who were stationed at hotels. In Victoria, three private security operators were contracted to provide the security,[4] while the other states and territories used their police resources. The states and territories carried the costs of hotel quarantine.[46] By 19 June, since the policy came into force 81,000 people had entered Australia. Of those, 63,000 had undergone hotel quarantine, while the rest, including flight crews, international businesspeople and defence members, fell under different rules.[47] Hotel quarantine had cost $118 million as at 19 June.[48]

Interstate border closures began on 19 March, with Tasmania imposing a mandatory 14-day quarantine on all "non-essential" travellers to the state, including returning residents.[49] On 24 March, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory closed their borders, with all interstate arrivals being required to self-isolate for 14 days.[50] On 11 April, Queensland banned interstate arrivals, with only Queensland residents and those granted 'exemption' being allowed entry.[51] On 8 July, the Victorian and NSW governments, jointly closed their common border, following a large spike in cases in parts of Melbourne.

With the spike in coronavirus infections in Victoria linked to the hotel quarantine program, a judicial inquiry into the program in Victoria was called on 2 July; and all international arrivals into Melbourne were suspended.[52] On 9 July, other state and territory leaders agreed to reduce flights and arrivals into Australia from 8,000 to 4,000 a week to ease the burden on the hotel quarantine system. States started to charge travellers for hotel quarantine.[48][53] In mid September, the states agreed to increased the number of arrivals to 6,000 a week, to help in the repatriation of tens of thousands of Australians stranded overseas.[54] By December 2020, 39,000 Australians were registered with the government as stranded, with more unregistered (as the government advised registration only for those needing assistance to return). After repeated flight cancellations and without access to government-provided health care or welfare benefits, many families reported being forced to overstay visas, and burn down savings and incur debt to pay for accommodations. Having to pay thousands of dollars for return tickets and mandatory hotel quarantine, some chose to send one family member back in order to resume work and earn enough money to pay the way of the rest.[55] As of 15 January 2021 over 37,000 Australians were stranded abroad.[56]

An overnight curfew was introduced in Victoria on 2 August 2020, extended on 13 September and suspended on 27 September. A Supreme Court judge has ruled the curfew was legal.[57]

National Cabinet

On 13 March 2020, the National Cabinet, a form of national crisis cabinet akin to a war cabinet, was created following a meeting of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). This is the first time such a cabinet has been proclaimed since World War II,[58] and the only time in Australian history that a crisis cabinet has included state and territory leaders.[59] The cabinet consists of the premiers and chief ministers of the Australian states and territories and meets weekly during the crisis.[60] At its first meeting on 13 March, the National Cabinet announced that gatherings of more than 500 people should be cancelled from 15 March. Schools, universities, workplaces, public transport and airports were not included in this recommendation.[59] Prime Minister Morrison also announced that he intended to attend a Rugby League match on 14 March; "I do still plan to go to the football on Saturday"[61][59] but later decided against attending the match.

On 29 March, the Cabinet agreed to stricter limits to apply from midnight on 30 March: a limit on both indoor and outdoor gatherings of two people except weddings (5) funerals (10) and people of the same household or family; strong guidance to all Australians is to stay home unless for necessary shopping, health care, exercise, and work and study that can't be done remotely; public playgrounds, skate parks and outside gyms to be closed. It was left to individual states to enforce these guidelines. They also agreed to a moratorium on evictions for six months for both commercial and residential tenancies suffering financial distress.[62]

Human biosecurity emergency declaration

On 18 March 2020,[63] a human biosecurity emergency was declared in Australia owing to the risks to human health posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, after a National Security Committee meeting the previous day. The Biosecurity Act 2015 specifies that the Governor-General may declare such an emergency exists if the Health Minister (currently Greg Hunt) is satisfied that "a listed human disease is posing a severe and immediate threat, or is causing harm, to human health on a nationally significant scale". This gives the minister sweeping powers, including imposing restrictions or preventing the movement of people and goods between specified places, and evacuations.[64] The Biosecurity (Human Biosecurity Emergency) (Human Coronavirus with Pandemic Potential) Declaration 2020 was declared by the Governor-General, David Hurley, under Section 475 of the Act.[63] The Biosecurity (Human Biosecurity Emergency) (Human Coronavirus with Pandemic Potential) (Emergency Requirements) Determination 2020, made by the Health Minister on the same day, forbids international cruise ships from entering Australian ports before 15 April 2020.[65]

A social distancing rule of four square metres (43 sq ft) per person in any enclosed space was agreed by National Cabinet on 20 March, to be implemented through State and Territory laws.[66][67] On 22 March 2020, the State governments of New South Wales and Victoria imposed a mandatory closure of non-essential services,[7] while the Governments of Western Australia and South Australia imposed border closures.[68]

On 22 March, Morrison announced a closure of places of social gathering, including registered and licensed clubs, licensed premises in hotels and bars, entertainment venues, including but not restricted to cinemas, casinos and nightclubs and places of worship. Cafes and restaurants could remain open, but were limited to only takeaway food. Similarly, enclosed spaces for funerals and things of that nature will have to follow the strict four-square-metre rule. These measures (labelled stage 1 in anticipation of possible future measures)[69] were effective immediately at midday, 23 March.[70][71] Morrison stated that he would like schools to remain open, but parents could keep children at home if they wished to.[72]

On 25 March 2020, the Health Minister made a second determination under the Biosecurity Act 2015, the Biosecurity (Human Biosecurity Emergency) (Human Coronavirus with Pandemic Potential) (Overseas Travel Ban Emergency Requirements) Determination 2020, which "forbids Australian citizens and permanent residents from leaving Australian territory by air or sea as a passenger".[65] On the same day, the Prime Minister announced a further set of restrictions, labelled stage 2 restrictions, effective midnight that night. These involved mainly smaller businesses, such as nail salons and tattoo parlours, while some, such as personal training sessions, were limited to 10 people. At the same time, other gatherings were restricted, such as weddings (5 people) and funerals (10 people).[73]

At 12:00am on Tuesday 31 March, restrictions were announced on indoor and outdoor gatherings, which were called stage 3 by the media, although the label "stage 3" was not part of the official announcement. The new rule limited gatherings to two people, although it did not apply to members of the same household.[74]

On 25 April 2020, the Biosecurity (Human Biosecurity Emergency) (Human Coronavirus with Pandemic Potential) (Emergency Requirements—Public Health Contact Information) Determination 2020, made under subsection 477(1) of the Act, was signed into law by the Health Minister.[75] The purpose of the new legislation is "to make contact tracing faster and more effective by encouraging public acceptance and uptake of COVIDSafe", COVIDSafe being the new mobile app created for the purpose. The function of the app is to record contact between any two people who both have the app on their phones when they come within 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) of each other. The encrypted data would remain on the phone for 21 days of not encountering a person logged with confirmed COVID-19.[76]

On 3 September 2020, the human biosecurity emergency period under the Biosecurity Act 2015 was extended until 17 December.[77]

National COVID-19 Coordination Commission

On 25 March, the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) was established by the Prime Minister as a strategic advisory body for the national response to the pandemic.[78][79] The NCCC's role includes providing advice on public-private partnerships and coordination to mitigate the social and economic impacts of the pandemic.[80][81]

On 29 March, Prime Minister Morrison announced in a press conference following a National Cabinet meeting that public gatherings will be limited to two people, while also urging Australians over the age of 70, Australians with chronic illness over the age of 60 and Indigenous Australians over the age of 50 to stay home and self-isolate.[82] Morrison also clarified that there were only four acceptable reasons for Australians to leave their houses: shopping for essentials; for medical or compassionate needs; exercise in compliance with the public gathering restriction of two people; and for work or education purposes.[83]

New South Wales

Barricades erected by Randwick City Council to prevent access to a beach at La Perouse, New South Wales
NSW Government COVID-19 automatic signalling notice

Premier Gladys Berejiklian formed a "war cabinet" to make decisions in relation to the pandemic.[84] Members include herself, Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, Minister for Health and Medical Research Brad Hazzard and Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott.[84]

On 15 March, Secretary of the New South Wales Department of Education, Mark Scott ordered that, effective immediately, New South Wales schools introduce social distancing measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus.[85] The order required schools to cancel all assemblies, excursions, travel, concerts, large inter-school sporting and arts events, and other events that would require students and staff to congregate in large numbers.[86] Schools were to stay open. Four schools in the state have been shut for periods during the crisis due to confirmed cases within their school communities.[87]

On 16 March, New South Wales Minister for Health and Medical Research Brad Hazzard announced that he was using his powers, under Section 7 of the 'Public Health Act 2010', to immediately and indefinitely cancel all public events with more than 500 attendees.[88] The order is enforceable by NSW Police and violations of the order can carry a prison term of six months, an $11,000 fine, or both.[88]

Chief Justice Bathurst, Chief Justice of New South Wales, and Chief Judge Price of the District Court of New South Wales ordered that effective 16 March 2020, new jury trials would be suspended to limit the spread of coronavirus.[89] The order did not apply to already empanelled jury trials.[90] Corrective Services New South Wales implemented screening mechanisms, early flu vaccination programs and stricter hygiene requirements for staff, visitors and inmates to slow the spread of the virus.[87]

The University of Sydney cancelled all graduations, conferences, academic and student organised events.[91] The University of New South Wales announced that it was cancelling all student and academic events until Easter, encourage staff to work from home and, where possible, shift all lectures, tutorials, demonstrations and labs to online learning.[92]

New South Wales schools were directed by the State Department of Education Secretary, Mark Scott, to cancel all assemblies, excursions, travel, and some events and conferences, including arts and initiative events, as well as whole school sporting events and inter-school sporting events with three or more involved schools.[93]

Even though there was a ban on gatherings of more than 500 people, huge crowds flocked to the popular Bondi Beach and other beaches across Sydney on Friday 20 March. Health Minister Greg Hunt said that such behaviour was "unacceptable" while the New South Wales Labor's Shadow Treasurer, Walt Secord urged the government to completely close off the beach. New South Wales Police Minister David Elliott later stated in a televised interview that lifeguards were instructed to keep a head count of the people at the beach and if the number exceeded 500, the beach would be closed. On 21 March, crowds built up yet again which led Waverley Council to temporarily close Bondi, and the other beaches of Bronte and Tamarama.[93]

On 22 March, a public health order was issued that declared Lord Howe Island a public risk area and directed restricted access. As of that date there were no known cases of COVID-19 on Lord Howe Island.[94]

On 30 March, NSW Parliament passed the "COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement" law,[95] which limited public gatherings to two people and directed, "that a person must not, without reasonable excuse, leave the person's place of residence." It listed 16 reasonable excuses and took effect from midnight on 31 March.

As of 15 May, some restrictions on public and private gatherings were eased. Private homes were allowed 5 visitors.[96] Free standing cafes and restaurants, and those inside pubs and clubs, were allowed very limited sit-down dining, after being restricted to take-away only since 23 March. Bars and gaming areas remained closed. A maximum of 10 people were permitted in restaurants and cafes, while social distancing rules still had to be followed. Outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people were permitted. Up to 10 guests were permitted at weddings, and funerals could have up to 20 mourners indoors, 30 outdoors. Up to 10 people were allowed at indoor religious gatherings such as churches.[97][98]

From 13 June, private homes were allowed to have up to 20 guests visit, and groups of 20 were allowed to meet outside. Food courts were allowed to open, so long as the 4-square-metres-per-patron rule was kept, and no more than 50 patrons. Indoor gym classes were allowed 10 participants. Up to 100 persons were allowed inside gyms, so long as area requirements were adhered to.[96]

From 1 July, New South Wales eased restrictions further due to the limited community transmission of COVID-19, at that time. No set upper limit on patron numbers at indoor venues, but only one person per 4 square metres. Outdoor venues, with a maximum capacity of 40,000, were allowed up to 25 per cent of normal capacity. Events had to be ticketed, patrons seated and follow guidelines. Restriction on funerals eased, but the four-square-metre rule applied. Other existing restrictions, no more than 20 guests inside homes, 20 outside, remained in force.[99] Restrictions were tightened again on 17 July. (See below)

From 5 July, the Federal Government introduced restrictions on the number of passengers arriving at Sydney Airport. A maximum of 50 passengers were allowed per flight, and international arrivals were set at 450 per day. This was by request of the NSW Government to reduce pressure on hotel quarantine capacity. More than 32,000 travellers had quarantined in Sydney hotels by this date.[100]

On 6 July, the Victorian and NSW State Governments, jointly announced that their interstate border would be re-closed from the start of 8 July, following a large spike in cases in certain areas of Melbourne.[101]

As of 12:01 a.m. on 17 July, after an increase in cases, new rules for pubs were introduced. Measures included, group bookings and persons at a table were limited to 10 (formerly 20), and a maximum of 300 people allowed inside any venue. COVID Safe Hygiene Marshalls to oversee the venues COVID-19 infection prevention were also required, and venue COVID-Safe registration was compulsory. Paper-based sign-ins are allowed, but a digital record of patrons contact details, for contact tracing, must be provided on request.[102] Breaching the rules can result in a A$55,000 fine for the venue, plus another A$27,500 for each day the breach is continued.[103] As of 24 July, the tightened venue restrictions were also applied to bars, cafes, clubs and restaurants.[103]

Until 18 July, international travellers who had to undergo compulsory quarantine on arrival did not have to pay for their accommodation, at a cost of A$65 million to the NSW Government. Under new rules announced on 11 July, as of 12:01 a.m. on Saturday 18 July 2020, all new arrivals are being charged for their quarantine. The charge includes meals and room costs, for which one adult will pay A$3,000, additional adults A$1,000, children A$500, and no charge for children under 3 years. Those already quarantined will not have to pay, nor will those who purchased flights, and, had a confirmed international arrival date, before 11:59  p.m. on 12 July 2020 AEST.[104]

On 20 July, the number of daily overseas arrivals allowed at Sydney Airport was reduced to 350 from the 450 limit set on July 5.[105]

On 5 August, it was announced that as from 7 August all Victorians arriving in NSW would be required to quarantine, at their own expense, in hotels for 14 days. Air arrivals from Victoria were only allowed at Sydney Airport.[106]

From 23 November it became mandatory for many businesses to use electronic record systems to collect details of patrons for possible contact tracing.[107]

Northern beaches outbreak

In about the second week of December there was an outbreak of COVID-19 in Avalon. A stay at home advisory was issued on 17 December.[108]

On 19 December a public health order was issued locking down Sydney's Northern Beaches.[109] Residents of the Northern Beaches LGA were required to stay at home from 5 pm on Saturday 19 December, until 11:59 pm on Wednesday 23 December unless they had a lawful reason to travel, including for: essential shopping; essential travel for work and to or from a school or educational institution; exercise; medical care, carer's responsibilities or compassionate needs. Entry to the area was similarly restricted. Public gatherings were limited to two persons.[108]

By 20 December there were 68 cases. This prompted restrictions on admission of Sydney residents or visitors to Sydney, to other states. These ranged from 14 day quarantines (ACT, NT, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria) to no entry without an exemption (Queensland). South Australia barred entry to anyone from the Northern Beaches, while Western Australia barred everyone coming from NSW.[110] Measures to stem the spread of COVID-19 in Sydney were again tightened. No more than 10 people were allowed in homes in Greater Sydney, Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Illawarra-Shoalhaven.[111]

New Year's Eve celebrations were restricted in Sydney city, around the harbour and suburbs. The midnight fireworks on Sydney Harbour, normally 20 minutes, were cut back to 7 minutes, with no fireworks at 9pm.[112] The harbour foreshores were closed to prevent crowds congregating. Only residents, guests, and those with bookings at bars, hotels and restaurants, were allowed in foreshore areas under a pass system. Vantage points in North Sydney were also closed.[112]


From 1 January, hospitality venues and hairdressers were required to use the NSW Government QR code system for patron check-in.[113]

On Saturday, 2 January 2021, it was announced that as of midnight that day, facemasks would become mandatory in many enclosed places in Greater Sydney. All public transport, shops, supermarkets, cinemas, theatres and places of worship are included. Hospitality workers also have to wear masks. Children under 12 years-of-age are exempt. An A$200 on the spot fine will be charged for non-compliance. Fines will be applied from 4 January (Monday).[114]

Maximum gym class sizes were reduced from 50 to 30, worship from 300 down to 100, weddings are limited to 100, or one per 4 square metres. Outdoor performances reduced from 1,000 to 500. Events which are "seated, ticketed and enclosed" were reduced back to 2,000 maximum. Night clubs are "not permitted.[114]


Gate 2 of the Melbourne Cricket Ground ahead of the 2020 AFL Grand Final, which was played in Brisbane

On 10 March, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews warned Victorians to expect "extreme measures" in the wake of the federal government updating the travel advice for Italy.[115] These could include cancelling major sporting events, requiring entire economic sectors to work from home, and calling recently retired health professionals to return to work.[116]

A state of emergency was declared on 16 March,[117] which was extended on 12 April,[118] with existing directions remaining in place including staying at home, restrictions on particular activities, detention, restrictions on airports and cruise ships, aged care, hospitals and isolation for people diagnosed with COVID-19.[citation needed] It was extended further on 11 May,[citation needed] and again on 19 July to 16 August.[119]

On 22 March, the school holiday was brought forward from 27 to 24 March.[120]

On 14 April, Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos announced that Victoria would have the widest coronavirus testing in Australia, with anyone having COVID-19 symptoms able to get tested.[121] The statement was issued that those who presented with fever or chills, in the absence of any other alternative diagnosis that explained the issue, or acute respiratory infection characterised by coughing, sore throat or shortness of breath should be tested for coronavirus.[122]

On 20 June, the Victorian Government re-tightened restrictions on household gatherings following a spike in community transmitted cases over the previous week, reported to be mainly caused by family-to-family transmission in large household gatherings. From 22 June, households could once again only have five visitors; and most easing of restrictions that were to take place were postponed.[123]

On 30 June, the Victorian Government re-enforced local lockdowns across 10 different Melbourne postcodes. Residents there would need to comply with the four acceptable reasons to leave their houses: shopping for essentials; for medical or compassionate needs; exercise in compliance with the public gathering restriction of two people; and for work or education purposes.[124]

On 2 July, the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced the "Judicial Inquiry Into Hotel Quarantine Program". This followed some cases of coronavirus in Victoria being linked by DNA sequencing to a breach in hotel quarantine infection control. The Inquiry was to "… examine the operation of Victoria's hotel quarantine program for returning travellers." It was headed by retired judge Jennifer Coate, and was scheduled to deliver its report to the Governor by 25 September.[125][126] The inquiry was delayed by lockdown restrictions.[127] Andrews noted that "it is abundantly clear that what has gone on here is completely unacceptable and we need to know exactly what has happened."[125] An interim report was published on 6 November,[128] and the inquirys final report was published on 21 December.[129]

On 4 July, the Victorian Government announced two more postcodes affected by the lockdown until 29 July 2020.[130] Nine public housing towers housing 3,000 residents were also added, with the additional condition that residents could not leave the tower under any circumstances for five days, with the possibility of an extension to 14 days.[131]

On 6 July, the Victorian and NSW state Governments announced that their interstate border would be re-closed from the start of 8 July.[101]

On 7 July, after recording 191 new cases, Premier Andrews announced that metropolitan Melbourne and the Shire of Mitchell would re-enter lockdown from 12am on 9 July, for 6 weeks.[132]

On 19 July, following a "concerning increase in coronavirus cases", Premier Andrews announced that "face coverings" were to be made mandatory in metropolitan Melbourne, and Mitchell Shire. This was not enforced until after 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday 22 July to allow the populace time to acquire a face covering.[119] In addition, the state of emergency was extended until 16 August 2020.[119]

From 22 July, as the chance of coronavirus infection remained high in aged care and health care settings, visits were restricted to carers only, and with a limit of one hour per day.[119]

From 23 July, "face coverings" in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire became mandatory whenever residents leave their homes. A fine of A$200 was imposed to those not complying, though medical and other exemptions were allowed, such as not being required for children under 12 years of age.[119]

On 2 August, a state of disaster was declared and metropolitan Melbourne was moved to Stage 4 restrictions. A curfew across Melbourne from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. was imposed, a 5km radius restriction as added, and other restrictions that had previously been applied only to selected postcodes were applied to the whole of metropolitan Melbourne. A permit system was introduced for any residents that still needed to travel to work outside of their 5km radius.[133]

On 6 September (Father's Day), the "Roadmap for Reopening" was announced; a series of four steps towards "COVID Normal" which would begin on 13 September. In the "First Step", which applied to metropolitan Victoria, several restrictions were eased including a reduction of the curfew, some loosening of rules around outdoor exercise and social interactions, the introduction of a "bubble" that allowed single people living alone to nominate one person to be allowed to visit them during the first two steps, and increased limits for weddings, funerals and religious gatherings. At the same time, it was announced that regional Victoria would move to the "Second Step", which included a staged return of students to onsite learning as well as the reopening of outdoor public pools and further increases to limits for weddings, funerals and religious gatherings. [134] [135]

On 18 October, regional Victoria was moved to "Step Three", which included the reopening of most businesses to the public, increased seating for hospitality, the allowance of visitors for all residents and the resumption of some indoor sports. At the same time, the 5km limit in metropolitan Victoria was increased to 25km and the two-hour time limit was removed, however the border between metropolitan and regional Victoria (often referred to as the "ring of steel") was strengthened with extra checkpoints added. [136] [137]

On 26 October, metropolitan restrictions were eased, with residents allowed to leave home for any reason, all retail businesses allowed to reopen, hospitality venues allowed to seat patrons, further relaxations on outdoor gatherings, and allowance of visitors to all residents, with some caveats. The 25km restriction and "Ring of steel" remained in place, however. [138]

On 8 November, metropolitan restrictions were brought into line with regional restrictions with travel now being allowed to and from anywhere in the state. Indoor recreation, community and entertainment venues were also reopened. Restrictions on accommodation were also loosened in an effort to encourage intrastate tourism. It was also announced that, subject to public health advice, Victoria would move to the "Last Step" on 22 November.[139] [140]

On 27 November, Victoria recorded its 28th consecutive day of 0 new cases and 0 deaths, and had 0 active cases, epidemiologically eliminating the virus.[141][142]

Victoria Police checkpoint at Yarrawonga on 12 January 2021

On 30 December, Victoria's 61-day streak of zero community cases came to an end as three community cases were identified, linked to the New South Wales outbreak. As a precautionary measure for New Year's Eve the Victorian Government reduced household gatherings from 30 people to 15 and mandated masks within an indoor setting. The border to New South Wales closed at 11:59pm on 31 December, with returning Victorian residents from "green zones" that returned before the deadline made to isolate until they received a negative test result. Those that returned afterwards would have to get tested and isolate for 14 days, aligning the restrictions with visitors from the Northern Beaches and Greater Sydney that had been enforced 11 days prior.[143][144]

COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria

On 30 November, the Victorian government announced that a new dedicated agency, "COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria" (CQV), had been created. The interim Commissioner of CQV is the Commissioner of Corrections, Emma Cassar. CQV is part of the government's response to the COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Enquirys' interim report. It will oversee all parts of the Victorian quarantine program: mandatory quarantine for people entering Australia, Health Hotels for positive and suspected cases, or close contacts, and Frontline Worker Accommodation. The CQV Commissioner will be supported by three Deputy State Controllers. Deputy Chief Health Officer Professor Ben Cowie will lead the CQVs' health management. Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Ross Guenther will provide expertise in enforcement.[145] As of 15 January 2021 the third Controller is still to be appointed.[146]


Queensland Police checkpoint at Coolangatta on 4 April 2020
Boundary Street Coolangatta, with barricades blocking access from New South Wales
COVID-19 preventive measures stickers on a pedestrian signal pole in Queensland

On 29 January, Queensland was the first to declare a public health emergency.[147] The legislation was strengthened on 6 February by the Public Health (Declared Public Health Emergencies) Amendment Bill 2020.[148]

Key directions made under the Public Health Act 2005 include:

  • 2 April – A person must not leave their principal place of residence except for essential needs including work, food, medical and exercise, outdoor gatherings only up to 2 persons or with members of household, receiving only to 2 visitors at a residence, and no gatherings in non-residences.[149]
  • 9 April – "Non-essential" business, activity or undertaking must not be operated. "Non-esssential" businesses include cinemas, casinos, concerts, indoor sports, gyms, playgrounds, campgrounds, libraries. Restrictions also apply to restaurants (take away or delivery only), churches, hairdressers etc. However, most construction, mining, manufacturing and retail businesses continued to operate.[150]

Restricted entry into Queensland was introduced, with only Queensland residents and those considered an 'exempt person' being allowed to enter Queensland by air, sea, rail or road from another state or territory.[51] This was introduced in stages: Stage 1 started on 26 March 2020, with stages 2 and 3 involving tightening the restrictions. Stage 4, introduced on 11 April, was the most restrictive, every person crossing the border including Queensland residents required a permit. In addition, a person who had been in a declared COVID-19 hotspot in the previous 14 days had to self-quarantine for 14 days.[151]

Closures of areas within Queensland included:

  • All camping areas within Queensland national parks, state forests and recreation areas were closed on 26 March.[citation needed]
  • Closure of high visitation National Parks including Fraser Island as well as all day use areas and visitor centres on 9 April.[152]
  • Closure of Queensland waters to cruise ships on 6 April.[153]
  • Closure of Surfers Paradise, Coolangatta and The Spit beaches on 8 April.[154]

Access to the Torres Strait Islands has been restricted to prevent COVID-19 from reaching the region, which has to date remained free of cases.[155]

On 8 January 2021 another three day lockdown was announced by Annastacia Palaszczuk to prevent spread of the more contagious UK strain of coronavirus that escaped from a Brisbane hotel quarantine. The lockdown applied to all of greater Brisbane including council areas of Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan City, Moreton Bay and Redland City from 6pm that day.[156] More then 2 million residents were affected.[157]

Western Australia

Sixty crew from the MV Artania (mostly musicians) were put into quarantine at the Novotel hotel.

On 15 March, Premier Mark McGowan declared a state of emergency in Western Australia, along with a formal public health emergency. Schools were prevented from organising gatherings of over 500, including "...swimming and sports carnivals, interschool carnivals, performances, concerts, exhibitions, fetes and fairs."[158]

On 24 March, the state borders were closed and all interstate arrivals were required to self-isolate for 14 days.[50]

On 1 April, regional border restrictions were implemented across Western Australia restricting travel between regions to essential services only. People were given 48 hour warning to return to their home region. At the time the Perth Stadium became the COVID-19 incident response centre for the WA.[159] Within the Kimberley region, movement was further restricted to prevent travel between each of the four local government areas.[160]

On 5 April, all state borders were closed, a strengthening of the previous border rules, all arrivals were quarantined in city hotels for 14 days.[161]

The MV Artania departed Fremantle on 18 April following a stand off with State and Federal governments over responsibility for the care of passengers and crew. The vessel was sailing for Indonesia and the Philippines before heading back to Europe.[162]

On 7 August, easing of internal WA restrictions set for 15 August were deferred to at least 29 August due to the Victorian outbreak.[163] They were again further delayed to at least 24 October.

South Australia

A "pool closed" sign outside the Marion Outdoor Swimming Centre in Park Holme, South Australia, April 2020

On 15 March, a public health emergency was declared in South Australia.[164]

On 22 March, a "major emergency" was declared, giving the police power to enforce self-isolation rules.[165]

On 24 March, state borders were closed. People arriving in the state were required to sign a declaration that they would self-isolate for 14 days and provide an address to the police, with penalties for failure to comply.[165][166]

On 27 March, a direction was made under the Emergency Management Act 2004[167] to prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people, and a limit of 1 person per four square metres.[168]

On 16 November "a number of significant restrictions" were reintroduced after an outbreak of coronavirus in the northern suburbs of Adelaide.[169]

On 17 November a six-day lockdown from midnight that day was announced. Afterwards there will be another eight days of "significant restrictions" according to Police Commissioner Grant Stevens.[170] On 21 November, Premier Steven Marshall announced that the state's "circuit breaker" restrictions would be ending three days earlier on 21 November after authorities discovered that one of the positive cases at the Woodville Pizza Bar coronavirus hotspot had misled contact tracers by concealing the fact that he worked at the shop. As part of the easing of "circuit breaker restrictions", groups of 50 people will be allowed to attend private functions and funerals, ten people can attend private functions, and 100 people will be allowed to attend restaurants and pubs.[171][172]


Scotch Oakburn College in Tasmania closed as a preemptive decision in fear of rising SARS-CoV-2 cases. It was to be closed from 16 March until at least 30 March.[173]

On 17 March, Tasmania declared a public health emergency.[174]

On 19 March, all "non-essential" travellers to the state, including returning residents, were subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine.[49]

On 12 April 2020, in response to an outbreak in Burnie, business restrictions were put in place for 14 days. It included the closure of most retail businesses except for those providing essential services, or those who can provide online services and home delivery. The North West Regional Hospital (NWRH) and North West Private Hospital (NWPH) were temporarily closed from Monday 13 April 2020, and staff, patients, and visitors since 27 March, were required to self-quarantine for 14 days.[175] The self-quarantine affected up to 5,000 people. Additional testing was announced, and emergency medical teams from the Australian Defence Force were sent to Burnie to cover for hospital staff.[176]

Australian Capital Territory

On 16 March, the ACT government declared a public health emergency.[177] All visits to the Alexander Maconochie prison were cancelled from 23 March, but there was "increased access to telephones" for prisoners to keep in touch with their families.[178]

On 18 July it was announced a sitting of Federal Parliament, scheduled for the first 2 weeks of August, had been cancelled. Medical advice was that, due to increased transmission of COVID-19 in Victoria, and the upward trend in NSW as well, there was a "significant risk" if members were to return to Canberra from all over Australia. Prime Minister Morrison requested that the sitting be cancelled. Parliament returned in August with some Members and Senators participating via video links from remote locations.[179]

Northern Territory

On 24 March, the Northern Territory (NT) government introduced strict border control, with anyone arriving from abroad or interstate being required to self-isolate for 14 days. The only exemption would be due to health and emergency services, defence and policing, flight crews and freight, and based on "compassionate grounds". NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker said that the local police and government are likely to impose these measures until September. Anyone now arriving in NT will have to declare that they would isolate for 14 days and let the authorities know of their location during this period at the point of entry. Failure to comply with the new regulations could result in denying entry or a fine of AU$62,800. Furthermore, all non-essential travel to the NT's 76 remote communities was banned.[180]

From midday on 1 May, some internal restrictions in NT were eased.[181]

Jervis Bay Territory

Jervis Bay Territory has not had any confirmed cases. The territory's border with New South Wales was closed and residents were not allowed outside except for essential purposes.[182] Various less stringent restrictions on internal activity and travel from other parts of Australia remained in place in November.[183]

Norfolk Island

Norfolk Island has not had any confirmed cases. As a precautionary measure the government imposed a 32-day travel ban and declared a state of emergency.[184] Administrator Eric Hutchinson stated that the measures were necessary due to the remote island's extremely limited health capacity.[184]

Indian Ocean Territories

On 18 March 2020, Administrator Natasha Griggs declared a state of emergency in the Australian Indian Ocean Territories, comprising Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. She limited passenger arrivals to local residents and essential staff, and imposed a self-isolation period of 14 days on any arrivals.[185]



The area of each segment represents the number of businesses per sector of the Australian economy; the figure represents the percentage still operating. By 7 April, the Arts and Recreation sector (shown in red) was the worst hit.[186]
An empty street in the Brisbane city centre, 29 March 2020

On 3 March, the Reserve Bank of Australia became the first central bank to cut interest rates in response to the outbreak. Official interest rates were cut by 0.25% to a record low of 0.5%.[187]

On 12 March, the Liberal Party announced a planned A$17.6 billion stimulus package.[188][189] The package consists of multiple parts: a one-off payment to pensioners, social security recipients, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders, payments of A$2,000–A$25,000 to affected small businesses, an increase to the threshold for the Instant Asset Write-off Program, tax concessions for investments, a small business 50% wage subsidy for 120,000 trainees and apprentices, and A$1 billion in subsidies for heavily affected industries.[188][190]

On 19 March, the Reserve Bank again cut interest rates by a further 0.25%, from 0.5% to 0.25%, the lowest in Australian history.[191]

In March 2020, the Australian Bureau of Statistics began releasing a number of additional statistical products to assess the economic impacts on the outbreak on the Australian economy. Data on retail trade turnover indicated a 0.4% rise in turnover in February 2020. Negative effects on some areas of the retail sector (particularly tourism-dependent businesses) were offset by a rise in food retail turnover, with supermarkets showing a large rise in sales,[192] mainly arising from panic buying.

On 22 March, the government announced a second stimulus package of A$66 billion, increasing the amount of total financial package offered to A$89 billion. This included several new measures like an extra A$550 'Coronavirus Supplement' payment to those on income support, paid from 27 April to 24 September 2020,[193] and relaxed eligibility criteria for individuals on JobSeeker's allowance, granting A$100,000 to small and medium-sized businesses and A$715 million to Australian airports and airlines. It also allowed individuals affected by the outbreak to access up to A$10,000 of their superannuation during 2019–2020 and also being able to take an additional same amount for the next year.[194]

On 30 March, the Australian Government announced a six-month, $130 billion JobKeeper payment.[195] The JobKeeper payment provides businesses with up to $1,500 a fortnight per full-time or part-time employee, or casual employee that has worked for that business for over a year. To be eligible, a business with an annual revenue of under A$1 billion must have lost 30% turnover since 1 March, or 50% for businesses over A$1 billion. The entire payment made to businesses for an employee must then, by law, be paid to that employee in lieu of normal pay.[195] This response came after the enormous job losses seen just a week prior when an estimated 1 million Australians lost their jobs. The program was backdated to 1 March with the aim of re-employing many people who had lost their jobs in the weeks before. In the first hour of the scheme, over 8,000 businesses registered to receive the payments. The program is one of the largest economic packages ever implemented in modern Australian history.[195]

On 22 May 2020, the Treasury and Australian Taxation Office announced there had been a miscalculation of A$60 billion in the planned cost of the JobKeeper program. Blaming 1,000 businesses for making "significant errors" on the application form, the Australian Government revealed it had overbudgeted the program, and that it was forecast to cost A$70 billion, not A$130 billion. The Treasury also announced that its original forecast of 6.5 million recipients was inaccurate, and closer to 3.5 million.[196] Prime Minister Scott Morrison celebrated the saving, while the Opposition announced a parliamentary inquiry in an attempt to compel Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to explain the overestimation.[197]

In July 2020, Australian Finance Minister Mathias Cormann in his interview with the CNBC vowed that government's budget deficit is expected to increase to 85.8 billion Australian dollars in the Financial year that ended on 30 June and further widen to $184.5 billion in the new fiscal year.[198]


Before the crisis, 600,000 Australians were employed in the arts, an industry which added around A$3.2 billion to export revenues. The rate of employment in the sector grew at a faster rate than the rest of the economy.[199] According to government figures, "cultural and creative activity contributed to A$112 billion (6.4% of GDP) to Australia's economy in 2016–17".[200]

Beginning in the second week of March 2020, Australian institutions began announcing reduced services, and then complete closures.[201] One of the first casualties was the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, with organisers announcing on 13 March 2020 that the 2020 festival had been cancelled entirely.[202] Opera Australia announced it would close on 15 March.[203] The national closure of all cultural institutions was mandated on 24 March, with subsequent restrictions on public gatherings. Consequently, many cultural events were also cancelled, including the Sydney Writers' Festival.[204] According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, by the beginning of April, "Arts and Recreation services" was the sector of the national economy with the smallest proportion of its business still in operation – at 47%.[205] A graph in Guardian Australia showing businesses by sector that had ceased trading between June 2019 and 30 March 2020 shows over 50% of arts and recreation services, the hardest hit of any sector (information media and telecommunications is next, at about 34%).[206] Adrian Collette, CEO of the Australia Council for the Arts, the government's arts funding and advisory body, described the impact on the cultural and creative sectors as "catastrophic".[207]

The Australian film industry has been severely impacted, with at least 60 shoots being halted and about 20,000 people out of work.[208] On Monday 23 March, all productions funded by Screen Australia were postponed.[209] As of 15 April 2020, after some improvement in COVID-19 statistics in Australia, Screen Australia continues to fund work and process applications, intending to use all of its 2019/20 budget.[210] Film industry organisations such as Screen Producers Australia (SPA) and the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) have been lobbying the government for a support package specific to the screen industry, and to expand the JobKeeper requirements so that those in the screen industry are better covered. Many in the film industry are employed by Special Purpose Vehicles — temporary companies that cease trading once production has finished – which cannot easily prove that their turnover has fallen by 30% or more.[211] SPA said that the industry shutdown had cost more than A$500 million, with about A$20 million of lost export revenue.[212]

One hundred and nineteen films and TV shows have been halted, with only a few shows (such as MasterChef Australia and Shaun Micallef's Mad as Hell) continuing production through the pandemic. The TV soap Neighbours was the first English-language TV drama series in the world to announce that resumption of production would begin soon after 20 April 2020.[212]

Like other governments around the world, the Australian government has acknowledged the economic, cultural and social value of the arts industry.[199][200] The Australia Council has redirected about A$5 million to "new programs designed to provide immediate relief to Australian artists, arts workers and arts organisations to support their livelihoods, practice and operations during the COVID-19 pandemic" (the "Resilience Fund"[213]), and is also hosting weekly meetings to address the concerns of specific sections of the industry, such as Indigenous creatives and organisations, live performance and public gatherings, and various peak bodies.[207] Several state governments have also provided relief packages.[199]

In early April, the federal government announced a package of A$27 million in specific arts funding: A$7 million for the Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support program, A$10 million for Regional Arts Australia's regional arts fund, and A$10 million for Support Act, a charity providing financial support and counselling to people in the music industry in Australia.[214] However, the "JobKeeper" scheme specifically excluded "freelancers and casuals on short-term contracts, or who have worked for a series of employers in the last year", thus excluding a large proportion of arts and cultural sector professionals, who rely on short-term contracts.[205][215][216]

However, most of the arts sector's more than 193,000 workers were still unable to access the JobKeeper payments, despite being defined as sole traders, and an estimated A$330 million worth of paid performances cancelled. The Australia Institute recommended a A$750 million rescue package for the industry, while Arts Minister Paul Fletcher said that arts workers should utilise existing support measures.[217]

On 4 May 2020, the company operating the Carriageworks multi-arts venue in Sydney declared it would be entering voluntary administration and closing, citing an "irreparable loss of income" due to government bans on events during the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent negative impact on the arts sector.[218][219] Carriageworks was the first major arts venue in the country to collapse suddenly after the hit to income caused by the strict social distancing rules enforced by state and federal governments, but others feared the same fate, after being forced to shut their doors in late March.[220]

On 13 May 2020, the Art Gallery of South Australia announced that it would reopen on 8 June.[221]

On 24 June 2020, the federal government announced a $250 million rescue package for the arts, comprising grants and loans. The package includes $75m for a grants program for new festivals, concerts, tours and events; $90m in loans to help fund new productions; $50m to help film and television producers unable to access insurance due to the pandemic, to enable them to restart production; and $35 million in direct financial assistance for struggling Commonwealth-funded organisations, including theatre, dance, music and circus. The Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) welcomed the boost, but critics said that it was not nearly enough, especially with so many workers in the industry still ineligible for JobKeeper payments.[222][223]

Indigenous Australians

Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders have poorer health outcomes and a lower life expectancy than the non-Indigenous Australian population, particularly those living in remote areas,[224][225] and along with overcrowded housing and many living in very remote communities, makes them one of the communities most vulnerable to the virus.[226] The remote Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY lands) in South Australia, whose population has many comorbidities, high rates of tobacco use, overcrowded housing and overall poor hygiene, introduced restricted access to the lands in early March to protect their people, especially elders, from the virus.[227] The Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, said it was a sensible move, and that the federal government would work with them.[228] (A later call to evacuate elders to Adelaide by the APY Art Centre Collective was not put into operation.[229])

The federal government set up a national Indigenous advisory group in early March, to create an emergency response plan for Aboriginal communities.[227] The 43-page plan was published in March,[230] and in late March, the Prime Minister that advised that Indigenous Australians over the age of 50 (along with everyone over 70 and those with a chronic illness over 60), should stay at home as much as possible.[231][232] The Department of Health created a web page dedicated to advice for Indigenous people and remote communities,[233] and the National Indigenous Australians Agency has one dedicated to the government's response to COVID-19.[234] On 18 April the NIAA announced a government package of A$123 million of "targeted measures to support Indigenous businesses and communities to increase their responses to COVID-19", for the coming two financial years.[235]

The Northern Territory developed a remote health pandemic plan,[227] with NT Health setting up a number of remote clinics across the Territory.[236] All non-essential travel to the 76 remote communities was banned, and a 14-day isolation period imposed for those residents wanting to return home from regional centres, and in May, health officials suggested that these controls should stay in place for the foreseeable future.[237] In mid-March, a group of senior NT clinicians called for 16 measures to be implemented as soon as possible to help protect vulnerable communities.[238] Other states and territories have provided advice on their health agency websites.[239][240][241]

A group of Barkindji families set up a tent town on the banks of the Darling River near Wilcannia in New South Wales, to escape the threat of the disease from overcrowded accommodation in the town.[242]


The major sporting leagues (A-League, AFL, AFL Women's, and the National Rugby League) initially stated that their seasons would not be suspended but would continue behind closed doors, with some games being played under those conditions. However all the leagues were later suspended.


Initially the 2020 Stawell Gift was postponed until later in the year,[243] however in May it was cancelled entirely for 2020.[244]

Australian rules football

The AFL season was initially curtailed to a maximum of 17 games,[245] with clubs expected to take at least a 10% revenue hit from coronavirus related issues.[246] However, on 22 March, just before the end of round 1 of the 2020 season, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan announced that the AFL season would be suspended until at least 31 May, citing the shutting of state borders as the primary cause for this decision.[247] The AFL season restarted on 11 June, with the Grand Final being played on 24 October at the The Gabba in Brisbane, Queensland, the first Grand Final to be held outside Victoria.[248] The 2020 AFL Women's season was cancelled midway through the finals series, with no premiership awarded to any team.[249][247]


The 2020 NBL Finals began with game two, although it was stated that the competition would be immediately suspended if any participants were to be diagnosed.[250] The best of five series was subsequently cancelled after the third game was played with the title awarded to Perth Wildcats.[251]

All second-tier state basketball leagues were either postponed or cancelled.[252]


The remaining two One Day Internationals between Australia and New Zealand were cancelled after the first match was played behind closed doors.[253] Cricket Australia also cancelled the Australian women's cricket team's tour of South Africa due to the virus.[254]


The first sporting event in Australia to be affected was the 2020 Australian Grand Prix, which was cancelled on 13 March after McLaren withdrew when a team member tested positive for COVID-19.[255] This was also enforced on the support races which included the 2020 Melbourne 400, which was the second round of the 2020 Supercars Championship to be cancelled.[citation needed]

Rugby league

Following the implementation of travel restrictions by New Zealand,[256] the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) announced that the New Zealand Warriors would be based in Australia for the foreseeable future.[257] The 2020 season was suspended indefinitely on 23 March.[258] Chairman of the ARLC Peter V'landys requested a government bailout for the National Rugby League, a request that was struck down,[259] and caused a considerable negative reaction.[260][261]

On 22 April, the NRL announced that they planned for the season to restart on 28 May, with training beginning on 4 May,[262] and has planned for 18 rounds (giving a 20-round season) and a State of Origin series, with the Grand Final rescheduled for 25 October.[263]

The NRL season recommenced on 28 May with a round 3 game played in Brisbane between the Brisbane Broncos and Parramatta Eels.[264] The match was played behind closed doors without any crowd, although the broadcasters (Channel 9 and Fox Sports) used fake crowd noise during the broadcast.[265] The return match rated highly on TV as it was the first TV match of a team sport in Australia for 8 weeks.[266] The Grand Final was played in front of a limited crowd on 25 October at ANZ Stadium.

The 2020 State of Origin series took place after the NRL season, with Game 3 holding a capacity crowd at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium.

Rugby union

The 2020 Super Rugby season was suspended following the conclusion of play on 15 March, due to the outbreak and the imposition of mandatory quarantine for international travellers to New Zealand.[267]


The A-League initially announced a continuation of the league with the Wellington Phoenix being based in Australia;[268] however, on 24 March, suspended the remaining matches indefinitely.[269] On 17 July, the season resumed in a NSW-based hub, where the season finished with the Grand Final occurring at Bankwest Stadium on 30 August in front of a limited crowd.[270]

Yacht racing

The 2020 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race was cancelled on 19 December due to an outbreak in the Greater Sydney region.[271]

Relaxation of restrictions


On 2 October, Prime Minister Morrison announced that the Australian Government had formalised a deal allowing New Zealanders "one-way quarantine-free travel" into New South Wales and the Northern Territory from 16 October as part of initial steps to establish a "travel bubble" between the two countries. However, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has ruled out extending reciprocal "quarantine-free travel" for Australians in order to contain the spread of COVID-19 into New Zealand.[272][273]

On 17 October, Stuff reported that 17 New Zealanders who had entered New South Wales traveled to Melbourne despite Victoria not being a party to the travel bubble arrangement with New Zealand. The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services confirmed the arrival of the group but stated that it did not have the authority to detain them.[274] In response, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews threatened to close his state's borders unless the Australian Federal Government blocked travellers using the Trans-Tasman bubble from traveling to Victoria. The Federal Government has disagreed with the Victorian Government's stance. In addition, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced that her government would not prevent New Zealand passengers from travelling to Victoria.[275]

On 11 December, the Premier of Queensland Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that her state would open its borders to travelers from New Zealand from 1 am the following day (12 December), exempting them from quarantine restrictions.[276]

On 14 December, the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the New Zealand Government had approved plans to establish a quarantine free travel bubble with Australia in the first quarter of 2021. Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt welcomed the move, describing it as the "first step" in normalising international travel and reiterated the Australian Government's support for measures to establish the travel bubble.[277][278]


On 26 October, Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews announced the relaxation of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in Melbourne, ending the 112 day lockdown period. From 28 October, all repair stores, restaurants, cafes, and bars were allowed to reopen with a 10-person limit; home visits were allowed; outdoor gatherings including weddings were limited to ten people; and funerals were limited to 20 people. From 11:59p.m. on 8 November, the 25 km travel limit in Greater Melbourne, and the border between Melbourne and regional Victoria was lifted; gyms and fitness studios were allowed to reopen; and the patron limit at restaurants, cafes and bars was raised.[279][280]

Demand for investigation

On 19 April 2020, Australia questioned China's handling of the pandemic, questioned the transparency of its disclosures, and demanded an international investigation into the origins of the virus and its spread.[281] The Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye, in a rare breach of diplomatic protocol, leaked details of his telephone conversation with Frances Adamson, Secretary of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, on the embassy website.[282] He warned that the demand for an inquiry could result in a consumer boycott of students and tourists visiting Australia, and could affect sales of major exports.[283] A trade dispute involving improperly labelled beef and barley dumping ensued, which seriously affected Australian exports.[284] On 26 August 2020, China's deputy ambassador to Australia, Wang Xining, expressed that Australia's co-proposal for an independent investigation into the causes of the pandemic "hurts the feelings of the Chinese people" during his address to the National Press Club of Australia.[285][286]

Event cancellations

Numerous events in 2020 were cancelled, rescheduled, or postponed. Some went to an online or streaming format. Even into early 2021 some events, such as regional agricultural shows, were cancelled for the second year. As of 16 January 2021 twenty such shows scheduled for January or February 2021 had been postponed or cancelled.[287]


New South Wales


South Australia



  • Land Forces 2020 international military exhibition scheduled for 1–3 September 2020, deferred until 1–3 June 2021.[321]

Australian Capital Territory

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Further reading

External links