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Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference at Australia's Parliament House in Canberra on March 22, 2020. Photo: David Gray/AFP

COVID-19: royal commission suspended, new restrictions

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has suspended all hearings and workshops due to the spread of COVID-19.

In a statement, the royal commission said the decision would affect all hearings, workshops and group consultations until at least the end of May 2020.

The commissioners said they were considering the implications of this decision on the schedule and added the future work program would be informed by public health advice.

They added: “Meaningful engagement with the sector is paramount to the work of the royal commission’s inquiry into aged care quality and safety, which is why we have decided to suspend all hearings and workshops. We must allow service providers and Government to focus fully on their response to the pandemic.”

They also recognised that substantial efforts are being made by aged care service providers and health services, and their staff, to support the needs of older people during coronavirus crisis.​​​

The announcement came just days before Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced tighter restrictions to slow the spread of virus.

From midday today, all pubs, clubs, gyms, indoors sporting venues, cinemas, casinos and entertainment venues will be closed. Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway or home delivery.

The government expects the measures to remain in place for at least 6 months.

Schools will remain open across most of Australia, with the exception of Victoria, which has moved forward its Easter break. Parents in NSW are being encouraged to keep their children at home.

In a statement, Morrison thanked members of the public who were adhering to social distancing measures but again scolded those who were ignoring advice.

“Leaders expressed their disappointment at some members of the community who are disregarding social distancing measures and, by doing so, putting the lives of older and vulnerable Australians at risk,” he said.

“If we want to slow the spread, everyone must implement appropriate social distancing in accordance with state and territory laws.”

He added that premiers and chief ministers will consider further restrictions if social distancing measures are not adhered to.

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