COVID-19: What you need to know

1. This is a major public health crisis

There are currently 1,098 confirmed cases within Australia as of 6.30am on 22 March 2020. Public health measures are continually being rolled out. The Government has restricted indoor gatherings to fewer than 100 people, with no more than 1 person per 4 square metres of space.

NSW and Victoria will begin closing non-essential services over the next 48 hours, but supermarkets, pharmacies and other essential stores will remain open. Victoria will also shut down schools, starting on Tuesday 24 March. The Government will also consider locking down COVID-19 “red zones”, as has been done in Wuhan and parts of Europe.

2. Australian borders have shut, WA, SA and NT are closed to non-residents

National borders have been closed to non-citizens and non-residents as of 9pm Friday 20 March. Australian residents are strongly advised against non-essential domestic and overseas travel.

Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory will both introduce strict border controls from Tuesday March 24, which will require interstate and overseas travellers to self-isolate for two weeks. Exemptions will be made for essential services including food and groceries. The NTCA and NTLEA are working with NT authorities to ensure appropriate controls for continued livestock movement.

3. There has been a rapid response to save Australia’s economy

A major and historical 4-point RBA monetary announcement dropped the interest rate to .25%, set a target for the yield on 3-year Australian Government bonds of around 0.25 per cent, provided a $90 billion dollar term funding facility targeted at SMEs, and will renumerate exchange settlement balances at 10 basis points.

A second economic stimulus package has been announced by Treasurer Josh Frydenbeurg,including increases to Newstart from July, increased access to superannuation, and payments of up to $100,000 for SMEs. Victoria announced another stimulus yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar this week dropped to a new 19 year low, and banks have stepped in with reciprocal rate drops and loan deferrals for small businesses.

4. The Federal Budget has been postponed

The 2020 Federal Budget has been deferred until 6 October, with States and Territories expected to follow suit. The future of Parliamentary sittings for this year and whether they will proceed is to be determined.

5. There is unprecedented demand for red meat

There has been a massive increase in consumer demand for red meat products, including beef mince, sausages, lamb legs and chops. Butchers, retailers and processors are working to meet this extraordinary demand and to minimize any disruption to supply. State governments in Queensland, Victoria, SA and NSW have removed delivery curfew restrictions to allow stores to keep up with demand. At this stage it is anticipated that the supply of fresh protein and meat production will be considered an essential and ongoing service.

6. We’re all in this together

The Australian red meat and livestock industry, through the Red Meat 2030 partnership, has convened a standing virtual roundtable with industry leaders to manage our Ongoing Pandemic Response. We met on 17 March and will meet again on 23 March. We are actively working to:
– Ensure food industries (from paddock to plate) are considered essential services for all States and Territories in all emergency provisions
– Ensure we can continue to meet our export commitments
– Waive existing fees and charges for Australian red meat and livestock businesses to offset new public health measures introduced across the supply chain
– Reduce risk to the supply chain by limiting any risk or transmission points
– Play our part in national food security and supply

7. Support measures are in place

There are many support measures and resources for business, customers and policy makers including:
– RMAC’s resources register is updated daily and outlines information and support by region and subject matte. – Next update: Monday 23 March.
– The Treasury’s Coronavirus Business Liaison Unit will engage with peak business groups to ensure systemic issues are being addressed
– NBN Co will waive certain charges for retail service providers for at least three months
– New ABS products will help measure the economic impact of the coronavirus
– Rationing has been introduced to ensure prescriptions medicines remain accessible
– A Queensland Government hotline has been set up for those who can’t organise the delivery of essential food and medications while in quarantine

8. Outside of red meat, agriculture is open for business

The National Farmers Federation met with the nations agricultural policy leaders to discuss the challenges of COVID-19 at an extraordinary convention of AGMIN, and have developed a PR campaign to reassure customers. There is no need to fear food shortages, but urgent action is needed to provide Visa extensions for migrant farm workers.

9. Assume all industry and other events are postponed indefinitely

Any campdrafts, ag shows, conferences and other gatherings have been moved to 2021, are now virtual or are postponed indefinitely. Whether Queensland’s Local Government election will proceed on 28 March has not been fully confirmed.

10. Lastly, please be kind

Everyone is doing their best in these troubled times. Be kind, stay safe and be courteous to all involved in the fight against COVID-19.