Coronavirus restrictions have continued to ease across Australia, but a spike in cases in Victoria has led to a rise in concern — and panic buying.

National Cabinet met today to discuss the latest developments. If you missed the press conference, here’s a breakdown of the most significant statements.

Obviously, the attention is on Victoria at the moment

Overnight, 30 new cases were confirmed in the state, with only five of those identified in hotel quarantine.

It means even as most states and territories have gone days and weeks without a case, Victoria has now recorded double-digit increases for 10 days.

However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the situation there needed to be put in context, particularly with 1 million cases being reported globally each week.

“But where you get bumps and when you get outbreaks, then you need to manage them and you need to respond to them, and that is what exactly what is happening.”

Mr Morrison said he commended the Victorian Government on its response, and said what was happening there could happen in any other state or territory.

Most significantly, the situation in Victoria hasn’t changed the national plan

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Australia to press on with economic reboot despite Victorian outbreak

Mr Morrison said National Cabinet “remained firm” on sticking it its three-step plan for eased restrictions.

Mr Morrison said there was also an understanding that the outbreak in Victoria was “localised”.

Morrison hasn’t changed his tune on panic buying, either

A man in a mask gives a thumb's up as he pushes a shopping trolley with a big pack of toilet paper in it.
Scott Morrison called panic buying “ridiculous”.(ABC News: James Carmody, file photo)

On Wednesday, Woolworths and Coles reinstated purchase limits for items like toilet paper and hand sanitiser in Victoria, following the rise in coronavirus cases at Melbourne hotspots.

Today, those limits were extended nationwide to ensure shelves didn’t become empty.

When asked about the panic buying, Mr Morrison said his message was the same as it was at the beginning of the pandemic: “Stop it, it’s ridiculous.”

He said he believed the issue would pass like it did last time people started stocking up unnecessarily.

The two-metre rule has now been endorsed nationally

Tasmania and Western Australia have already announced they were moving to a two-metre rule, replacing the old standard that required four-square metres of space per person at gatherings.

Today, Mr Morrison said National Cabinet as a whole had endorsed the new two-metre rule for smaller premises.

However, it will still be up to individual states and territories as to when they take up the new rule. They will also be responsible for defining “smaller premises” (but Mr Morrison said as a rule of thumb, it referred to premises of 100 square metres or less).

It’s also worth noting that in the case of both Tasmania and Western Australia, the two-metre rule applies to all gatherings, not just those at smaller venues.

The 14-day quarantine rule isn’t going away for returned travellers

Not much more to say about that one, really…

Brendan Murphy also said states can keep people in quarantine if they refuse tests

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Professor Brendan Murphy says testing will be ramped up in hotel quarantine

The Chief Medical Officer was responding to a comment by Dr Annaliese van Diemen, Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer, that about 30 per cent of returned travellers had refused to be tested in the state.

He said he believed most people would cooperate given that requirement.

Morrison and the Treasurer will be meeting with the CEOs of the major banks this afternoon

The agenda will include deferral of loans and allowing people access to funding for construction and rebuilds.

Medical experts will put a road map together for the return of entertainment venues

Mr Morrison noted that these venues needed greater certainty about when they can start planning to reopen.

He also said a statement about the safe return for entertainment venues had been adopted.

Brendan Murphy just gave his last briefing as Chief Medical Officer

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Andrew Probyn interviews outgoing Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy

He’ll be taking up the role of the secretary of the Department of Health, with current Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly to step up as acting Chief Medical Officer until a permanent replacement is chosen.

Mr Morrison thanked Professor Murphy for his “unfailing advice”.

“He’s been in the living rooms of Australians now for many months and I know, Brendan, you have been a person of great assurance to Australians with your calm way of explaining what are often very complex things,” he said.

Professor Murphy thanked his fellow colleagues on the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), while also noting that his role at the Department of Health would still see him involved in the response to coronavirus (just not in front of the cameras anymore).

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