Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed that the government will begin to ease some of the restrictions implemented in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The nationwide lockdown will now be relaxed in three staggered stages, with the goal of achieving a Covid safe economy and society by July.
The prime minister delivered an update on the ongoing Covid-19 crisis in Australia on Friday afternoon, following the most recent meeting of the national cabinet via video link this morning. While the latest announcement means that there will be no sudden change to day-to-day life, it has provided the country with a clearer picture of the path out of the pandemic, including when Australians can get back to work, as well as an indication on when domestic borders may reopen.
Restrictions will be eased in three four-week stages, with the first seeing people allowed to gather in groups of up to 10 people, while Australians will also be able to welcome five people into their homes in a bid to promote “greater connection with friends and family”. Other measures to be eased first include the resumption of local and regional travel, as well as the reopening of small cafes and restaurants.
“Today our focus is on the road back, today we have put Australia in a position to go forward,” Morrison said. “There will be risks. There will be challenges. There will be outbreaks, there will be more cases, there will be set-backs. Not everything will go to plan. There will undoubtedly be some human error, no one is perfect, everyone is doing their best.”
Step one will allow the following:
Step two of the plan will see gatherings of up to 20 people permitted, while other businesses such as cinemas, galleries, beauty parlours and gyms may be able to reopen. This stage would also see community sport start up again and some interstate travel is expected to be able to resume.
Step three will allow gatherings of up to 100 people, with the prime minister pointing out that he’d expect to see people back in workplaces by then, as well as pubs, bars and nightclubs to open and possible trans-Tasman travel. However timing depends on the success of the previous stages.
“So many Australians are hurting right now, lives turned upside down, painful separation from their loved ones. Livelihoods they have spent a lifetime building, stripped away. Uncertainty about their future and their fail future,” Morrison said.
“The last few months have given us a reminder of things that are really important … above all, the importance of each other. Every Australian matters.”
While the federal government has outlined its plans, each state and territory will act on these new guidelines on a case by case basis. Morrison added: “They’ll be announcing their own timetables for when they’re making those statements … They all got different starting points. The whole country has the same end point, to get to a COVID safe economy.”
Earlier today NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed that there would be no change to restrictions across the state until at least Monday, May 11. WA Premier Mark McGowan said he expects to make an announcement on the easing of further restrictions on Sunday, while Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said residents in the state should not expect any change to guidelines yet due to the current number of cases. However it is thought that Tasmania will ease some of its current guidelines today (Friday), with Premier Peter Gutwein expected to deliver an update later today.
Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy also addressed reporters outside of Parliament House today, going into the plan in more detail and urged Australians to stay home if they show any signs and symptoms of sickness for the foreseeable future.
“We’re in uncharted territory. There’s not many countries in the world like Australia that’s in a position to start gently relaxing measures with such low case numbers,” Murphy said. “We don’t want to lose the control we’ve got. We want to make sure that outbreaks that occur are managed and controlled.”