Australia’s most populous state might not lift any coronavirus restrictions until JUNE while millions of other Australians have their lockdown eased… but doctors say any move in the next two weeks could be catastrophic
- New South Wales will not move to ease any major restrictions until June
- Gladys Berejiklian said it would be ‘months’ until things started to look normal
- The state has recorded 3,047 cases, the highest of any Australian state
- Health experts said that people must socially distance when visiting family
- But big-scale events where contact tracing is hard is still a long way away
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Millions living in Australia’s most populated state could be living under strict coronavirus lockdown laws until at least June.
New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian said she would be in no rush to lift coronavirus restrictions, and no major changes would be made for several weeks.
It comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled the federal government’s three-step plan to getting Australia back to normal within months.
But the action plan is being put in place on a different timetable state-by-state, as the country has very contrasting experiences of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Health experts in NSW said the state should wait until there has been a two-week-long period where no more than five new infections were recorded on any day.
Beachgoers are seen enjoying a swim at Sydney’s Bondi on May 8 (pictured) with the beach likely to be exercise-only for some time to come
Customers are seen having their temperatures checked before being allowed into the Apple Store at Bondi Junction on May 7 (pictured)
In the Northern Territory, where a new case hasn’t been discovered for nearly a month, pubs will be back open on Friday.
But in NSW, which has recorded 3,047 confirmed cases – the highest in Australia – the picture going forward is very different.
‘The path forward for NSW is positive but we need to make sure testing rates stay high and all of us must follow social distancing,’ she told the Sydney Morning Herald.
‘We should be proud of what has been achieved in NSW so far and there is no doubt people will feel a much greater sense of normality over the next few months.’
A woman has her temperature checked at the Apple Store at Bondi Junction on May 7 (pictured) as state officials say restrictions will be in place until June
Police officers are seen patrolling Sydney’s Bondi on May 3 (pictured) to ensure people are social distancing
NSW had just four new COVID-19 cases confirmed in the 24 hours until 8pm on Thursday, but health officials have warned a sudden lifting of restrictions would see cases spike.
Epidemiologists who have studied the virus’ movements said a state as heavily-populated as NSW must take months, not weeks, to ease restrictions.
A staged approach to lifting restrictions is critical to ensure further outbreaks don’t occur, and that the healthcare system isn’t overwhelmed.
If any new activities are allowed, such a small groups being allowed to visit family, contact tracing will be key in case someone becomes infected.
Swimmers are seen drying off on Sydney’s Bondi Beach on May 8 (pictured) with exercise-only on all local beaches
Pubs in NSW, such as celebrity chef Matt Moran’s Edinburgh Castle (pictured on May 3), are likely to remain closed for some time
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 6,913
New South Wales: 3,047
Western Australia: 552
South Australia: 439
Australian Capital Territory: 107
Northern Territory: 29
TOTAL CASES: 6,913
‘But there is room for some easing, like allowing five people to visit homes or reopening libraries,’ Professor Stephen Duckett, head of health economics at the Grattan Institute said.
‘Things that mean contact tracing can swing into gear relatively easily to contain any spread.’
Admitting that it is a ‘conservative approach’, scientists suggested that leaving any easing of restrictions until at least June would give officials more time to assess the situation.
Serious problems would arise at major sporting events, concerts and festivals, as contact tracing would be nearly impossible.
If one person in a very large crowd contracts the virus, it would become impossible to contain any outbreak.
Two women are seen posing for a selfie after going for a swim at Sydney’s Bondi Beach on Friday (pictured)
But small gatherings at family homes would be much easier to keep safe, as all attendees would be known to each other and easy to contact.
‘NSW will be considering the data we collected in May, to make sure that any further consideration of easing restrictions will be done in a solid way so that we continue to gain ground,’ Ms Berejiklian said on Friday.
‘You can’t just make a decision and implement it immediately, there’s eight million people I need to consider.’
‘With Mother’s Day and another weekend coming along, we know there will be more visitations to peoples’ houses and we ask people to do that safely, especially if you’re visiting an older and vulnerable person.
‘Please consider how you might conduct that visit to keep everybody safe.’
WHEN WILL STAGE ONE BEGIN?
NEW SOUTH WALES
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has flagged a cautious approach, with no changes likely before June
Victoria will not announce relaxing of rules until at least Monday
Queensland said it would enter Step 1 on Saturday May 16
Premier Mark McGowan said Western Australia would move quicker than the eastern states
From midnight on Friday, people in Canberra are allowed to gather in groups of 10 people both indoors and outdoors
From Monday, even more restrictions will disappear – with caravan parks and campgrounds opening.
From May 11, regional travel will be allowed as will outdoor dining at restaurants and cafes
The Northern Territory is already at its own version of Step 1
On May 11, several restrictions will begin to be eased
A police officer stands on a beach at Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast on May 3 (pictured)
From Monday, face-to-face teaching is returning to the state.
Announcing the plans on Friday, Mr Morrison said the steps had been carefully discussed, and would help Australians slowly return to normal life.
‘It will see children back in classrooms and in playgrounds in their communities,’ he said.
‘Golfers back on the green. Lap swimmers back in the pool.
‘Boot camps back in the parks. Retail and small cafes and restaurants reopening.’
Queensland was quick to put a timetable on its own restriction easing, and said it would enter Step 1 on Saturday May 16.
In South Australia, Step 1 will be brought in this Sunday night, meaning restaurants, cafes and shopping can re-open, as long as health measures are followed.
Australians do not know when they will be allowed to travel overseas for a holiday (pictured, Australians returning from India on May 8)
A cafe is Newtown is offering free food to people who have lost their jobs during the coronavirus outbreak (pictured on May 7)
Victoria will not announce relaxing of rules until at least Monday, while Australian Capital Territory while the ACT is expected to announce the adoption of some Step 1 measures on Friday.
Western Australia is at the other end of the scale, with low infection rates and hard border closures giving the state a better starting point to take the next steps.
Premier Mark McGowan said he would move quicker than the eastern states.
‘Clearly Western Australia has the opportunity to be more economically progressive than other states,’ he said in Perth.
Mr Morrison said moving through the stages would be guided by medical advice.
The prime minister also reiterated his push for an inquiry into the response to the coronavirus, which has strained relations with China.
It will be up to the states and territories to decide when beaches can reopen for sunbathing (pictured, Surfers’ Paradise on April 7)
A closed sign is seen in a shopfront in Newtown on May 7 (pictured), with many businesses still not open across Australia
The first step will allow gatherings of ten people outside and at cafes and restaurants.
The second step allows gatherings of 20 with gyms, salons and cinemas back open.
The third stage allows 100 people to come together with pubs open and flights to New Zealand and Pacific islands.
But Mr Morrison failed to address when hundreds or thousands of people will be allowed to gather for an event like a concert or an NRL match, as well as when Australians can begin to book international holidays.
Asked about international travel except for New Zealand and the Pacific, he said: ‘I cannot see that happening any time soon’.
Swimmers are seen at the Nightcliff Swimming Pool in Darwin (pictured) on May 1. The Northern Territory allowed outdoor non-contact sport from last week
When Australia reaches step three and gatherings with 100 people are allowed, contact details must be recorded.
Australian National University professor Peter Collignon warned coronavirus outbreaks were to be expected as Australia transitioned through the three-step plan, The Daily Telegraph reported.
‘We are going to still have clusters, we will see things like nursing home breakouts I would presume, we’ll see workplaces like the abattoir for instance,’ he said.
‘To me it looks like a good plan that keeps to the basic principles – which I don’t think we can compromise too much – but it’s a way forward and I’ll be watching and seeing how it goes as we move forward.’
The three-step plan to relaxing lockdown in Australia
* Five visitors allowed at home
* Gatherings of up 10 in business and public places
* Work from home if it works for you and your employer
* Small restaurants, cafes and shopping open with max of 10 customers
* Home sales and in-person auctions resume
* Children back in classrooms
* Libraries, community centres, playgrounds and outdoor boot camps open
* Local and regional travel resume
* Gatherings of 20 people in your home, business and public places
* Work from home if it works for you and your employer
* Gyms, beauty, cinemas, galleries and amusement parks open with COVID-safe plans
* Organised community sport allowed
* Caravan and camping grounds reopen
* Some interstate travel
* States and territories may allow larger numbers in some circumstances
* Gatherings of up to 100 people
* Return to workplaces
* Pubs, clubs, nightclubs, food courts, saunas and some gaming venues open
* All interstate travel resumes
* Consider cross-Tasman, Pacific island and international students travel
* States and territories may allow larger numbers in some circumstances
The head of Australia’s peak tourism body has cautiously welcomed the staged easing of coronavirus restrictions, but says the real boost will only occur once state borders are reopened.
Australian Tourism Industry Council executive director Simon Westaway said the prime minister’s announcement on Friday is great news for the sector.
‘All the signs are pointing to green shoots of domestic travel from June,’ he said.
Mr Westaway said while there was a long way to go before tourism returned to normal, members had already expressed their excitement about the plan for the way out.
What’s really important about today is that there has been a level of certainty put out there,’ he said.
Customers are seen queuing outside the Apple Store at Sydney’s Bondi Junction on May 7 (pictured) before receiving their temperature checks
A nurse is seen taking down details for a coronavirus test at one of Victoria’s mobile testing sites at Highpoint shopping centre on May 4 (pictured)
‘The level of uncertainty has been a big part of the angst for our industry.’
But Australian Hotels Association says the road map to recovery is inconsistent and could force some hotels and pubs shut permanently.
‘Hotels have been left blindsided,’ chief executive Stephen Ferguson said on Friday.
‘They basically will not be able to re-open their businesses until stage three of the recovery process.’
Mr Ferguson said the plan failed to account for venues with large floor space and most would be forced to remain closed.
‘We are told only 10 people can sit and have a meal in a pub restaurant area even if that area could safely socially distance 50 or 100,’ he said
‘Why can only 10 people be allowed in a dining area of a huge venue that could safely socially distance 120?’
Queensland will move to stage one on Saturday May 16
A week-long countdown is on for the reopening of Queensland restaurants, libraries, pools and beauty salons.
Personal training sessions, retail shopping, weddings with up to 10 people, and funerals with up to 20 inside or 30 outside, are also allowed from May 16.
Bars and gaming facilities will remain closed in the first phase of a staged easing of the state’s lockdown, but up to 10 people at a time can dine in at restaurants, pubs, licensed clubs, RSL clubs and hotels will be allowed.
Recreational travel of up to 150km from home will also be allowed.
Those rules apply differently in the outback, where locals can travel up to 500km from home, and up to 20 can dine in an eatery at a time.
Victoria has been the most cautious state throughout the coronavirus crisis, and is currently dealing with an outbreak at a meat factory, Cedar Meats, which is linked to 70 cases.
Overall, Victoria has had 1,454 cases, with 1,322 people recovered and 18 deaths.
But Victorians will have to wait until Monday to hear about when restrictions will start to be eased, which is when Victoria’s state of emergency ends.
‘This is a pandemic, this is not a popularity contest,’ Mr Andrews told reporters on Friday.
‘Nothing changes today, nothing changes tomorrow, nothing changes Sunday. The rules remain in place.
Two people in face masks are seen in front of Melbourne’s Flinders Street Station on May 1 (pictured)
‘And I just reiterate – these are the rules, and the strong compliance we’ve seen from Victorians, for which I’m very grateful, that’s what’s delivered these numbers.
Let’s not give everything back, let’s not throw away all the progress we’ve made by letting our frustration get the better of us.’
Mr Andrews said he understood the frustration over the measures, but it was important to lift restrictions safely and slowly.
‘Otherwise we will be following some examples around the world that have been shown not to work and why would you copy something that doesn’t work?’ he said.
‘That’s why I think next week will be filled with lots of different announcements that are all cautious and careful.
‘But I think they will be welcomed by Victorians because they are based in science, they are based in the biggest testing protocol that our country has seen.’
He explained that around 10 per cent of cases were from suspected community transmission, which puts Victoria in a different position to some other states.
A ‘roadmap’ showing the way out of lockdown was presented to Australians on Friday (pictured, volleyball on Sydney’s Bondi Beach on March 21)
The Northern Territory is already at its own version of Step 1, after not recording a single new case for more than three weeks.
From next Friday, May 15, residents will be allowed to go to pubs, restaurants and cafes, with sport already allowed.
Businesses must submit coronavirus safety plans to be allowed to reopen.
Health Minister Natasha Fyles said more than 600 Territory businesses had uploaded coronavirus compliance forms already.
The state’s chief minister Michael Gunner encouraged locals to head out and support local business.
‘There is a keg convoy rolling up the Stuart Highway 175,000 litres of the good stuff coming our way,’ he said on Friday.
New South Wales will not relax any coronavirus restrictions until next week, Premier Gladys Berejiklian (pictured on Thursday) said
‘But what excites me most is the jobs that are coming back online.’
On May 11, several restrictions will begin to be eased, with 20 people rather than ten allowed at funerals.
National parks and reserves will also be opened for locals to exercise.
From midnight on Friday, people in Canberra are allowed to gather in groups of 10 people both indoors and outdoors – while maintaining social distancing.
Its chief minister Andrew Barr explained that how these restrictions relate to businesses will be made public next week.
In South Australia, there have been 439 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 433 people recovered.
Residents are already allowed to gather in groups of 10, with no restrictions on retail or outdoor exercise.
But from Monday, even more restrictions will disappear – with caravan parks and campgrounds opening.
People wear face masks as they walk through Rundle Mall in Adelaide on March 28 (pictured)