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Is Australia In Lockdown Or Not?

Scott Morrison doesn't like the term, but even NSW Police agrees -- parts of Australia are in lockdown, essentially.

With new rules coming in overnight to heavily restrict movement and encourage all people to stay home, Australia has moved far closer to the concept of a 'lockdown' than we have in living memory.

But just a few days ago, Morrison cautioned against using this term.

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"I would caution against the way people talk about this word 'lockdown'," he said on Friday.

The PM said there were no plans to stop Australians from getting essential supplies, and said the term may cause upset.

"I would actually caution the media against using the word 'lockdown' because I think it does create unnecessary anxiety because that is not an arrangement that is actually being considered in the way that term might suggest," Morrison said.

Scott Morrison urged caution in talking about "lockdowns". Image: AAP.

"So when we talk about potential other restrictions, there is no need for people to rush out and cram supermarkets and do things like that."

But it seems NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller didn't get the memo.

"You're in a lockdown wherever you live," he said on Tuesday after NSW implemented its strict rules.

Whatever your primary home is, that's where we want you to stay.

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There's not much difference between Australia's situation and other countries which have moved to use the term 'lockdown'.

Harsh restrictions on movement; orders to stay home except for a small number of exemptions, under threat of heavy penalties; people told to work or learn from home; gyms, bars, cinemas, restaurants closed.

In NSW and Victoria, visiting the house of a parent or partner is not allowed; Victoria even forbids two parents to bring two kids together for a playdate.

Granted, unlike some other countries, Australia is still allowing less-than-essential shops -- like those selling clothing, games or homewares -- to stay open. But even then, people are being told to only shop for essentials and not linger in shopping centres.

The national cabinet is expected to examine whether those stores should close too.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has faced pressure to lockdown the state. Image: AAP

"Premier; you must announce a full lockdown. I will back you. You have my full support. Everyone must go home and stay home," NSW opposition leader Jodi McKay said last week.

NSW Labor backs the state's strict measures. One party source described the measures as "a lockdown in all but name".

The NSW Greens also call it a lockdown but say the measures need to be better communicated before penalties are handed out.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard signed the NSW order at 10.20 pm and tweeted the exact wording -- stricter than initially expected -- at 10.40 pm on Monday, less than 100 minutes before it came into force at midnight.

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Greens MPs Cate Faehrmann and David Shoebridge are concerned people may not understand the rules yet -- Sky News footage on Tuesday showed police cars driving around Sydney's Rushcutters Bay, moving on people who were reading or sunbaking.

“While the Government needs to be taking measures to ensure that people stay at home unless absolutely necessary and practice physical distancing when out in public, it’s unacceptable these latest restrictions have been brought in overnight with scarce detail and such harsh penalties,” Faehrmann said.

“People cannot be expected to know what to do in order to avoid massive fines when the government’s information campaign is so inadequate.

She called for "blanket text messaging, letterboxing every household and saturation advertising" to promote the rules.

“People are literally waking up this morning and asking how does this apply to me, are my parents or grandparents ‘vulnerable people’, can I help out my neighbour?" Shoebridge said.

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Morrison said that as the virus progresses, different jurisdictions may enact different rules.

This has already been seen with some states closing borders and variation in how states are enforcing stay at home orders.

"You may see in the future, greater variation in how far restrictions go in some parts of the country," the PM said Friday.

NSW is concerned about "localised breakouts" in Sydney's eastern suburbs and has flagged potentially harsher measures to be installed in smaller areas, depending on local transmission.

Morrison said there will not be a national lockdown, as the same rules wouldn't be needed everywhere -- in his words, "just because you might see under those rules something being done in Tuggeranong or in Tamarama, that doesn't mean those rules need to necessarily apply in Gymea Bay".

So as parts of Australia come to grips with what some already call a lockdown, more measures may still be to come.