EVENTS across the region have been cancelled as health authorities try to reduce community transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Bans have been put in place by the federal government for non-essential, organised public gatherings of more than 500 people from today.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told media following a meeting with premiers and chief ministers on Friday the recommendation by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) to advise against public gatherings was precautionary and designed to reduce community transmission of COVID-19 in Australia.

Swan Hill's Harmony Day celebration on March 28 has been cancelled, with event organisers saying the committee had been closely monitoring the situation during the past couple of weeks.

"It is with much regret that the Swan Hill Harmony Day committee sends this message to advise you the 2020 Swan Hill Harmony Day community event has been cancelled," the committee posted on social media at the weekend.

"The announcement today by the federal government that non-essential gatherings of 500+ people should be cancelled due to the current coronavirus situation led to our decision."

The committee added their priority was to ensure they looked after the safety and wellbeing of all community members.

"We are extremely grateful and would like to thank you for your contribution towards the preparation for this year's event and we hope you will be part of our 2021 Harmony Day event," the committee added.

Meanwhile, this weekend's Cohuna show has been cancelled along with the Serpentine air race, which has been postponed until September 27.

The track was empty on Friday night with Swan Hill Little Athletics following orders by its governing body to cancel all events.

Across the state, the brakes were slammed on the weekend's Australian F1 Grand Prix, along with the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

The AFL will open the 2020 season on Thursday night with matches played in empty stadiums, while a long list of global sporting events have been cancelled until further notice.

Essential services such as schools, workplaces, hospitals, public transport, domestic travel and universities as well as public transient places such as shopping centres will not be impacted by the government's ban on mass gatherings.

Eight new cases COVID-19 were confirmed yesterday morning, bringing the total number of cases in Victoria to 57.

Victoria's chief health officer, Dr Brett Sutton, said it was important steps were taken if we were to slow the "sharp rise" of COVID-19 cases that have been witnessed in other countries.

"We have also seen other countries that have been able to stop a quick spread in the number of people with COVID-19," Dr Sutton said.

"Taking action — based on the best advice locally and internationally — is the best way we can protect people from the risks attached to this virus.

"There will be more confirmed cases of COVID-19.

"But by taking these measures, we can help prevent a sharp spike in the number of infections — reducing the pressure on our health system and ensuring that everyone gets access to the care they need."

Dr Sutton said in mass gatherings like sporting events, concerts and music festivals that spread of COVID-19 becomes more likely, putting more people at risk of contracting it. "This action is designed to avoid harm to the community, particularly for those people who are more vulnerable to this virus – our elderly and those with chronic illnesses," he said.

"For the moment, if you are well and free of symptoms, you can continue catching the train if it's essential, going to work, sending your kids to school and going to your local shops. If you're unwell, you should be at home.

"We're also asking Victorians to think about buying a small amount of extra food and other essential supplies for themselves, for their pets, and for others they may be caring for.

"That does not mean stockpiling – but planning sensibly as you shop.

"Thinking about what extra items you'd like in your pantry and by shopping accordingly – for food such as non-perishables like dried fruit and nuts, canned foods and vegetables, beans, coffee, cereal, and pasta.

"You don't need too much, just a two-week supply of food and a 60-day supply of prescription medication."

The federal government has also upgraded the Smartraveller travel advice for all Australians travelling overseas to level three - 'reconsider your need for overseas travel at this time'.

"Regardless of your destination, age or health, if your overseas travel is not essential, you should consider carefully whether now is the right time," Mr Morrison said.