The Australian Government made its first COVID-19 declaration on 21 January advising that COVID-19 was a disease with pandemic potential. This decision pre-empted the World Health Organisation and allowed the government to commence a range of actions to prepare the health system for the potential situation.
The first travel advice for people returning from China came soon after and by 1 February the first 14-day isolation requirements had been introduced. These restrictions continued to increase throughout February until finally all international travellers became subject to the self-isolation requirements. By 19 March, all non-residents were banned from travelling to Australia – our borders were effectively closed.
The government announced funding in early March, committing with the states to $100 million for the public health response. This increased with a further $2.4 billion on 11 March.
A day later the first economic stimulus package was announced with $17.6 billion to support businesses. This included the apprentice wage subsidy, the instant asset write-off, a loan guarantee for small businesses, accelerated depreciation for all business and a PAYG rebate.
At this time, the first restrictions on public movement were introduced with non-essential gatherings of 500 or more people banned.
The establishment of the national cabinet was also announced with its first meeting held on 15 March. The National Cabinet has continued to meet each week to provide regular updates from the Prime Minister and the states and territories.
The Australian Government and each state and territory government has since taken specific steps to support businesses and individuals. These measures were targeted at stabilising business activity and supporting individuals unable to work due to the restrictions on non-essential public gatherings and travel.
Collectively, these announcements represent several billions of dollars worth of spending, much of which will see future revenue foregone completely, while some is expenditure brought forward into the current financial year. While the extent of the economic impact coronavirus will have on the Australian and the global economics is unknown, the predictions are telling, particularly for housing this year and into 2021.