Australia to Decide on May 8 Whether to Ease Lockdown Measures


(Bloomberg) -- Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the National Cabinet will decide whether to ease lockdown restrictions on May 8 as the rate of new coronavirus infections remains flat.

Speaking to reporters in Canberra, Morrison said he was bringing forward the decision from the week beginning May 11, due to the success in flattening the curve. He urged Australians to sign up to the government’s mobile phone app to help authorities trace infections.

“Australians deserve an early mark for the work that they have done,” he said. While more than 3.5 million people had downloaded the app, he said “there needs to be millions more” to minimize the chance of secondary outbreaks.

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy told the press conference that Australia has enough testing kits and a secure supply line for medical equipment, including masks and other personal protection equipment. He also urged more Australians to download the app, adding it was the “final piece in the jigsaw puzzle of contact tracing.”

With some Australian states and territories going days without recording new cases, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said earlier Friday that the infection curve was “pretty much crushed.” Australia had 6,762 confirmed cases as at 6 a.m. Sydney time on Friday, up 16 from the day before. There have been 92 deaths and 5,720 people have recovered. More than 570,000 tests have been conducted.

The lockdown has seen Australians told to at stay home except for essential shopping, medical appointments, school or work. Pubs, restaurants, casinos, gyms and cinemas remain closed, swelling unemployment and pushing the nation toward its first recession in almost three decades.

Treasury forecasts unemployment will double to about 10% in the June quarter, despite the federal government and central bank releasing around A$320 billion ($207 billion) of stimulus, equivalent to about 16.4% of gross domestic product.

Ahead of the national announcement on May 8, some states and territories have announced their own incremental easing of social distancing guidelines.

  • New South Wales:
    • Two adults and the children in their care are allowed to visit another person’s home
    • Retail stores encouraged to open with social-distancing rules
    • Schools to gradually ramp up face-to-face teaching from May 11, starting with students on-site for 1 day a week
  • Victoria:
    • No easing of restrictions; the state is indicating it will look to alleviate some social-distancing rules in mid-May
    • Schools open but remote learning encouraged
  • Queensland:
    • Shopping for non-essential items allowed
    • Picnics, drives allowed; national parks reopened
    • Schools delivering remote learning until at least May 22
  • Western Australia:
    • Gathering restrictions eased from 2 persons to 10
    • Family gatherings for fishing, picnics, boating, camping allowed
    • Schools open; parents can decide whether their children should stay home and remote learn
  • South Australia:
    • Schools fully reopened
    • Gatherings of 10 people allowed
  • Tasmania:
    • No easing of restrictions; public gatherings limited to 2 people and non-essential visits out of homes banned
    • Most schools open except in virus hot-spot on Northwest Coast; remote learning encouraged
  • Australian Capital Territory:
    • No easing of restrictions; public gatherings limited to 2 people and non-essential visits out of homes banned
    • Most schools closed and remote learning in place for all of Term 2
  • Northern Territory:
    • Restrictions on outdoor social activities, sport and recreation eased; national parks reopened; 10-person gathering limits for outdoor weddings and funerals removed
    • Further easing to come from May 15, including re-opening of gyms, restaurants and churches; all businesses and sporting events allowed to reopen from June 5
    • Schools open

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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