02:49, March 14 224 0 theguardian.com

2020-03-14 02:49:06
All new jury trials in Victoria to be suspended amid coronavirus crisis

Courts across the state of Victoria in Australia will immediately suspend all future jury trials in a bid to contain the spread of Covid-19. The drastic measure will apply to the county and supreme courts.

Supreme court chief justice Anne Ferguson said all new jury trials would be suspended but that trials in which a jury had already been empanelled would continue.

“This means that the jury empanelment process, in which hundreds of potential jurors gather at court, will not take place until further notice,” Ferguson said.

“This precautionary decision was made after consideration of the latest expert health and government advice and recognises that members of the community may hold concerns about attending court in large groups. All Victorian courts and VCAT [Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal] will continue to hear other matters as usual unless otherwise advised.”

Thirteen new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Victoria, the state’s health department said in a statement on Saturday, bringing the total number of cases to 49 and the Australian total to at least 200.

The new cases include 11 men and two women aged between 20 and 69. All cases are recovering at home in isolation, except for one person who was admitted to hospital and is stable. All new cases were acquired overseas or through close contact with confirmed cases of Covid-19.

Australia will ban mass gatherings of more than 500 people from Monday, excluding schools and universities. The chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy said on Saturday the virus could take some months to go right through the community “with a flattened curve”.

“It might develop in focal parts of the country where we might be able to control it, if it develops in a number of parts it could last for quite a number of weeks,” he said. At the moment we are just focusing on containing and flattening it, and we will be reviewing our public health measures every day.”