What was the impact of COVID-19 in Australia?

Early 2020 saw the emergence of a global pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19. All Australians were affected by COVID-19. Restrictions imposed by the Australian and state and territory governments limited people’s movement and activities to limit the spread of the disease, and many people changed their behaviour to protect themselves and others from the risk of exposure.

The first cases of COVID-19 were recorded in Australia on 25 January 2020. As the disease spread, restrictions were put in place to contain its impact. By the end of March 2020, restrictions had shut down all non-essential businesses and activities, with Australians urged to stay at home (Grattan Institute 2020). Restrictions started to ease from late April, although with state and territory differences.

In Victoria, COVID-19 cases began to rise again in June 2020, in what became known as the ‘second wave’. Various restrictions were introduced in July, with the highest level of restrictions introduced from 2 August with stricter restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne than in regional Victoria. On 26 October, Victoria reached zero new cases for the first time since June 2020 (Department of Health and Human Services 2020).

Key events during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia
25 January 2020First cases reported in Australia
30 January 2020WHO declares the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, WHO's highest level of alarm
11 February 2020Novel coronavirus named SARS-CoV-19 and the disease caused by the virus named COVID-19
1 March 2020

Australia's first death

11 March 2020WHO declares a pandemic
25 March 2020Beginning of restrictions in Australia with all non-essential services closed from 25 March 2020
May 2020Easing of national restrictions in Australia
2 August 2020Beginning of highest level of restrictions in Victoria due to second wave of cases

13 September 2020

Easing of restrictions in Victoria begins

What is COVID-19?

Coronaviruses are a common form of virus that can cause respiratory diseases that range from the common cold to much more serious illnesses (Department of Health 2020). These viruses spread from person to person in a number of ways. COVID-19 is a coronavirus disease caused by a new coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2 (short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) that was first reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in December 2019 (WHO 2020).

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 spread quickly after it was first reported, declared to be an international pandemic by WHO on 11 March 2020.