Sweeping new virus closures announced
Local governments around Australia are closing their pools, gyms, libraries, sporting clubs and other public facilities, as any kind of socialising is deemed risky.
As Australia grapples with the new reality that social distancing is the only known measure to control the coronavirus, which has now infected more than 200,000 people globally, councils are responding, closing down beloved local facilities.
Earlier this week, the City of Sydney announced they would shut down gyms and pools from March 20 until at least April 3, to help control the spread of the virus.
In Victoria news.com.au understands local Councils have been told to shut down their public buildings in line with government advice to try and control the spread of the coronavirus, and these will all be shut in the coming days.
The facilities include public pools, art galleries, libraries and sporting clubs across the state. The President of the Victorian Local Government Association (VLGA) Lambros Tapinos told news.com.au public health is the "number one priority". Mr Tapinos said the advice has been sent out to councils across Victoria, and appropriate action is being taken.
"Facilities that aren't essential have been closed and that is important," Mr Tapinos said, calling the risk posed to the community by the pandemic "unprecedented".
Mr Tapinos said residents should be assured the mass closures didn't mean essential services provided by local councils would stop.
"Local councils still have an important role to play, especially if people are self-isolating." He said councils would continue vital services like rubbish collection, home care to seniors, meals on wheels and immunisation. Council workers would be carrying out their work with enhanced precautions to limit them from being infected.
"Existing services will be modified to ensure that people will not be socially-isolated while they're at home," he said, saying the VLGA is working on enhancing its role to stop people in the community from becoming lonely or stricken, as more people self-isolate in the coming months.
He said people could be provided "books, medicines, groceries and other modified services over the coming months while people self isolate in the future".
QUEENSLAND YET TO CLOSE ALL PUBLIC BUILDINGS
In Queensland, the response has been less of a blanket move. Greg Hallam, CEO of Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) told news.com.au the association has been monitoring the situation closely since the outbreak, but decisions remained with each local council.
The Brisbane City Council will suspend Justice of the Peace from attending Council libraries from this Saturday for the protection of those staff, however the libraries will remain open.
Yeronga Pool in Brisbane had previously been shut down after a person who tested positive for COVID-19 went to the pool after returning home from overseas. The Council closed the pool temporarily, but it's now been reopened.
"Queensland councils are actively involved in emergency management arrangements and are represented on the Queensland Disaster Management Committee, a committee of Cabinet, through the LGAQ," Greg Hallam, CEO of Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) told news.com.au.
"Decisions regarding the closure of council facilities remain on the advice of authorities including Queensland Health and on the associated emergency management procedures when considered against local circumstances and risks.
"Queensland is a large decentralised State and we need to ensure that the responses locally are appropriate.
"Individual councils then make decisions around closures based on the best advice."
NSW: What works in the City of Sydney may not work in Cobar
In NSW, news.com.au understands local councils are also moving to follow the advice provided by the federal government.
The Local Government Association of NSW told news.com.au they're working "incredibly hard" with the state and federal government to tackle the outbreak of COVID-19, while ensuring essential services including cleansing and waste continue running while protecting people's health.
"The wellbeing, safety and livelihoods of our communities and valued council staff is our top priority during these uncertain times," said Local Government NSW President Linda Scott.
"This summer, NSW local governments have shown they are best able to deliver locally led recovery after bushfires, drought and floods. When considering future stimulus packages in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the NSW government must urgently fund councils to provide local economic stimulus."
"Funding councils as part of a NSW Government economic stimulus plan allows for continued local employment across NSW, as well as investment in public infrastructure and community services for the public good," Cr Scott said.
"By funding councils, the State Government will ensure their economic recovery package reaches every corner of the state.
"What works in the City of Sydney may not work in Cobar. We need the NSW Government to support local economic development strategies to boost jobs and the resilience of every community across NSW. Councils can deliver this."
TASMANIA'S RESPONSE TO THE CORONAVIRUS
The CEO of the Local Government Association Tasmania told news.com.au they are monitoring to the coronavirus pandemic by taking advice from the Department of Health "on a more than daily basis".
In the state, they've already closed the Launceston Leisure and Aquatic Centre and Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and "will continue to (make closures) as the situation requires", according to the CEO.
The City of Launceston also made the decision to move its Council meetings from a small chambers to a much larger Town Hall reception room so those in the meeting could engage in social-distancing.
CITY OF ADELAIDE CLOSES DOWN POOLS, CENTRES AND LIBRARIES
The City of Adelaide announced on Tuesday they'd be temporarily closing the city's pools, city libraries and community centres as well as the Adelaide Town Hall.
The decision was made in line with Scott Morrison's announcement on Tuesday, banning non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people, according to a statement from the City of Adelaide.
"We are absolutely determined to do everything we can to assist our residents, businesses, visitors and staff during this uncertain and challenging time," the Adelaide Lord Mayor said on Tuesday. "Council takes our role in supporting the State Government, SA Health and all stakeholders very seriously, so that everyone who spends time in the city is kept informed and are as safe as possible.
COUNCILS IN NORTHERN TERRITORY URGED TO FOLLOW FEDERAL ADVICE
The President of the LGANT wrote to Councils in the territory last week, telling them to include a number of measures as they reviewed their local policies.
He urged time councils to look to current federal heath guidelines when deciding what to do in regards to "community facilities and events facilitated and managed by local councils". The President also warned Councils to reconsider time spent in council meetings be reduced, and that those councils take into account the incoming role of high absenteeism, and the role of people working from home.
WESTERN AUSTRALIAN RESPONSE IN LINE WITH STATE PANDEMIC PLAN
The Western Australian Local Government Association is managing their response to the outbreak under the State Pandemic Plan.
Originally published as Sweeping new virus closures announced