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PM Says Non-Essential Public Events Of 500 People Or More Should Be Cancelled From Monday

Scott Morrison has confirmed the Australian government is advising against non-essential public events of 500 people or more from Monday, as it works to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The prime minister said the Australian Health Protection Principals Committee advised on Friday that "non-essential, organised" gatherings should not go ahead.

"That, of course, doesn't include schools. It doesn't include university lectures. It doesn't mean people getting on public transport or going to airports or things of that nature," Morrison told reporters in Sydney on Friday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Image: AAP

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Morrison said the public advice is precautionary, and designed to reduce the community transmission of COVID-19 in Australia.

A new national cabinet made up of the PM, premiers and chief ministers will meet on Sunday to finalise arrangements before the advice kicks in on Monday.

"This is an early-stage action that we are undertaking to make sure we get ahead of this," Morrison said.

But the PM said he would still be attending the season opening game of his beloved Cronulla Sharks rugby team on Saturday night.

"I would be going on Saturday because I had previously planned to, and these are measures we are putting on from next week, and there are further measures that will come in over time, I would expect," he said.

"There is every reason for calm, every reason for people to go about their usual business.

"But it's important that we see this as just a further common sense precaution to ensure we can manage the transmission of this virus in the most effective way possible."

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Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy reiterated his advice was "precautionary" and based on the incremental increase in numbers of confirmed Australian cases each day.

He said the current evidence was that community transmission of Covid-19 was not widespread in Australia, but that the virus can spread more rapidly in very large events.

"You might only have one or two people at a very large event who might be carrying the virus, and the chance of it being spread at those large events accelerates the rate of progression of this virus," he said.

Murphy stressed the advice was only based on "non-essential" and "static" events "where people are together for a period of perhaps up to two hours".

"We are not suggesting that people should interrupt their normal daily work, it is just avoiding those particular circumstances where transmission can be accelerated,"  he said.

The announcement comes after the PM met with state premiers and chief ministers to consider how to best respond to the spread of Covid-19.

There has already been a string of event cancellations across the country, including the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix in Melbourne.

During the PM's announcement Ticketek Australia and entertainment company TEG updated to confirm Robbie Williams' March 14 show had been cancelled.

It also follows New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's call to ban gatherings of more than 500 people there. Other parts of the U.S have also banned public events.

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