Revealed: When restrictions could ease
AUSTRALIANS may be able to start escaping the coronavirus cage within weeks - with restrictions on public gatherings likely to be the first lifted if community transmission continues to dive.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose by 46 across the country to 6359 yesterday, meaning the average daily increase in Australia over the past three days was just 0.91 per cent.
National Cabinet is set to be briefed on Thursday on scenarios relating to lifting restrictions.
Health Minister Greg Hunt applauded the community for complying with strict social distancing restrictions over the Easter long weekend, saying that steps towards lifting a lockdown would be achieved once there was a clear indication of virus suppression and the country had a "rapid response capability" in place.
"I couldn't be more … heartened by the work of Australians to the requests,'' he said. In further good news, Australia is on track to get the 7500 ventilators needed to deal with a possible outbreak if restrictions were lifted.
Mr Hunt revealed that three elements were required for National Cabinet to ease the current lockdown following medical advice.
The first step was establishing a "clear indication" Australia was suppressing the case numbers, including transmission rates in the community, while the second was making sure of "rapid response capability". "Thirdly, and this is the work that the Prime Minister has been deeply engaged in, planning through once those things are achieved, the steps out (of lockdown), which would also be gradual," he said.
Australia has conducted 362,000 tests, with a positive test rate of 1.8 per cent - the lowest in the world.
The ratio of deaths to cases is about 0.96 per cent, compared with 3.97 per cent in the US and 1.67 per cent in Japan.
Mr Hunt said movement over the Easter period was below 13 per cent of the average for this time of year.
"The latest data shows that we have had consistent growth in new cases of below 2 per cent a day. There is still growth and there could, at any time, be outbreaks and spikes."
Western Australia may be first to relax restrictions, but social distancing will remain for the foreseeable future.
Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said it was "far too early to relax anything", but flagged some easing, such as increasing gathering limits.
"It may be possible to have some discussions about consistency across that … but I wouldn't want to pre-empt the sort of measures that we're considering because we're not talking about doing anything in the short-term, we need to stay the course in the coming weeks,'' he said.
Originally published as Revealed: When restrictions could ease