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Anzac Day services restricted as new curbs loom for mass gatherings

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Anzac Day services across South Australia will be closed to the public next month, as the number of coronavirus cases in the state climbs and the Federal Government considers new curbs on mass gatherings.

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The RSL state branch said today it had cancelled Anzac Day marches and public attendance at the main North Terrace event after discussion with the State Government.

“There will be a Dawn Service at the State Memorial, however, the public will be asked not to attend,” RSL state president Cheryl Cates said.

“It will consist of official guests only and modified to COVID-19 risk.

“The Youth Vigil on ANZAC Eve, the City ANZAC Day March, the Service at the Cross of Sacrifice and ANZAC on Torrens are also cancelled.”

RSL sub-branches around the state would be allowed to hold their own Dawn Services, but again, the public would not be allowed to attend.

Premier Steven Marshall said the Government strongly supported the “difficult” decision.

“This is a decision which is made with deep regret,” he said. “We know this is a very solemn and important commemoration for the people who have served our nation.”

He asked the general public to respect the decision to only allow RSL members at the services, given the attendance of thousands of spectators would risk the health of older veterans.

“Our number one priority is, of course, the health, safety and welfare of our veterans. They are often in a more vulnerable cohort than the rest of the public. We know this is a very tough decision.”

Marshall opened a coronavirus clinic at the Mount Barker Hospital this morning, following clinics which opened last week at the Royal Adelaide and Women’s and Children’s hospital, and a drive-through testing clinic at the Repat hospital at Daw Park.

The Mt Barker clinic will operate from 9am-5pm seven days a week.

Two more drive-through testing stations are will open at Whyalla and Port Augusta in coming days.

“This will ease the pressure on emergency departments and local GPs,” Marshall said.

“The establishment of regional clinics forms part of our plan which is focused on ensuring all parts of South Australia, both metropolitan and regional, are prepared for the impact of the coronavirus.”

The Premier said the number of South Australians who had tested positive to coronavirus had moved to 30 overnight, but there was no evidence yet of “community transmission”.

Premier Steven Marshall at the new COVID-19 Clinic at Mount Barker Hospital today. Photo: AAP/Kelly Barnes

He defended advice to parents to keep sending their children to school, unless otherwise advised, and also said he believed the state’s universities were following the advice of the national cabinet and federal health authorities.

However, he said that advice could change with a meeting of federal cabinet tonight asked by the states to consider its advice to schools.

It comes after he told an emergency Adelaide City Council meeting last night that calls to immediately shut down public schools were “idiotic”.

“These idiotic concepts that you hear on talkback radio and on the Twittersphere – all we need to do is close down the schools for two weeks – I mean that’s inane,” he said.

“The kids go out, they get it far easier than when they’re at school, and then they spread it, and when they spread it to the most vulnerable cohorts.

“The evidence on schooling is overwhelmingly that children must remain in school at the moment.”

Tonight’s national cabinet meeting is also scheduled consider new restrictions on mass gatherings – which are currently limited to 500 people – aged care and remote Indigenous communities.

A senior source told InDaily today that cabinet was likely to consider restricting non-essential mass gatherings to 100.

Marshall said last night that “tough” restrictions on indoor gatherings and visitation to aged care facilities were likely to be put in place “sooner rather than later”.

He also said that the state’s chief public health officer Dr Nicola Spurrier could be granted powers to make directives to entire cohorts of people such as older South Australians, and not just individuals.

“This will be met with mixed reactions – some people will be aghast about the fact they’ll be told they can’t visit their mother four times a day,” Marshall said.

“If you look at the five deaths that have occurred in Australia, three have come from one aged care facility in New South Wales.

“We cannot be responsible for accelerating increased mortalities from this disease because we haven’t adopted the best advice.”

The Premier also warned against “massive spikes” in cyber attacks prompted by coronavirus fears.

“There is a massive, massive spike in fishing exercises where people are getting public information alerts that they’re opening and then they’re really compromising the security of our digital data.

“At a time when there’s going to be more people working from home, utilising VPNs, we become significantly more vulnerable.”

Meanwhile, Adelaide-based Santos is reviewing all its capital spending plans in light of the collapse in oil prices and will stop all new hiring.

Santos had planned to spend $US1.45 billion ($A2.38 billion) in 2020, including $US500 million on major growth activities, focused on its Barossa gas project off northern Australia and the Dorado oil project off Western Australia.

“Santos is currently reviewing all discretionary capex activities and will be freezing new external hiring for now, but there are no plans for mass job cuts because we have focussed over the last few years on being right-sized to remain resilient at low oil prices,” Santos chief executive Kevin Gallagher said in emailed comments to Reuters.

Santos shares were down 12 cents, or 3.18 per cent, to $3.65 at 1113 AEDT.

Analysts said the move was not surprising following the halving in oil prices over the past two months and a 54 per cent slide in Santos’s share price in the past month due to a slump in oil demand due to the coronavirus and a Saudi-led oil price war.

“They’re going to have to pull all sorts of levers, and that may mean delaying projects,” said Andy Foster, senior investment officer at Adelaide-based Argo Investments, a Santos shareholder.

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