Australia's construction sites are “exempt” from the list of businesses to shut down, as the nation has approached stage two in closing all non-essential business to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian on Monday said that construction sites and workplaces are exempt from the midday shutdown, but added “if you have the capacity to work from home, you should do so”.
As Victoria implemented its own shutdown of all non-essential activity to contain the spread of Covid-19, premier Daniel Andrews said the recommended social distancing health and safety rules “must be adhered to”.
As agreed by national cabinet, a Victorian government spokeswoman confirmed that stage two restrictions “do not apply to construction sites and plumbing services”.
“We said there would be a stage two and that’s what we’re doing today,” Andrews said of Australia's latest restriction measures on Wednesday.
“But I’ll be up front with you, there will also be a stage three.”
With Australia's confirmed cases of coronavirus at 2423, as of Wednesday afternoon, New South Wales and Victoria have flagged they would soon move to stage three restrictions irrespective of other state's decisions.
New South Wales had 1029 confirmed cases late Wednesday, and Victoria 466.
“We agreed states and territories will soon need to take individual measures – because this is moving at a different speed in different places,” Andrews said.
Following the national cabinet meetings held on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, federal government and state and territory leaders have implemented a phased national shutdown of all activity deemed “non-essential.”
“Now, if you ask me who is an essential worker? Someone who has a job,” Morrison said on Tuesday.
“Everyone who has a job in this economy is essential.”
As schools around the country remain open and social distancing measures tighten, uncertainty has followed as to what is and isn't deemed “essential” following official announcements.
A Queensland government spokesperson said that construction sites were still providing jobs, and were “still considered necessary, until this advice changes”.
Major projects like Queen’s Wharf in Brisbane are continuing, “with no interruption to timelines”, The Star Group told The Urban Developer on Wednesday.
In response to the latest measures, building and industry unions, including Master Builders Victoria, the UDIA Victoria and CFMEU have “united”, urging the industry to follow appropriate guidelines.
“Which stipulate strict hygiene practices, social distancing and separation of workers on meal breaks, in addition to other measures, to ensure sites can be kept safe and stay open,” the newly formed industry collective said.
“Treat this situation very seriously.”
The Urban Taskforce added that the building and construction industry would be “a critical player in driving the economy through this crisis”.
“If the message from the health authorities and the government changes, then the industry will, of course, follow that advice,” Urban Taskforce chief executive Tom Forrest said.
Real estate auctions and open home inspections were banned in the federal government's Tuesday announcement.
At time of writing, the national cabinet were scheduled to meet again on Wednesday evening.