Government to make early decision on relaxing restrictions

Government to make early decision on relaxing restrictions

Australians have "earned an early mark" in the battle to contain COVID-19 according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, with plans to make a decision on 8 May about easing restrictions.

"Today the National cabinet agreed to bring forward our consideration of the decision on relaxing decisions to next Friday," the PM said.

"Australians have earned an early mark through the work that they have done...our plan has been to get the virus under control and to ensure that we can contain it."

He said 11 of the 15 conditions needed for relaxing social distancing restrictions have been met, but one of the key outstanding issues was the matter of COVIDSafe app downloads.

"There are currently over 3.5 million downloads and registrations of the COVIDSafe app, and there needs to be millions more," he said.

"As I explained it the other day, it's like not putting on sunscreen to go out into the blazing sun."

"We need that tool so we can open up the economy, and that's why it's so important. So if you haven't downloaded the app yet, download it."

Morrison was reluctant to highlight any specific industries where easings might take place.

"We're also through my cabinet, working directly with industry sectors about what mitigations can be put in place in workplaces. So it's not just about whether an activity can be reopened. It's how it can be reopened," he said.

"People will be very familiar with the full range of restrictions that were put in place some weeks ago, and they're all obviously being reviewed and they're being reviewed both in terms of the health mitigations that would need to be put in place if they were to be opened, but looking at the economic opportunities that extend to those particular activities as well."

NT to relax gathering restrictions from Friday, sets date for restaurant reopenings

The Prime Minister also announced an additional $205 million would be going to the aged care sector through one-off payments to facilities all over the country.

The funds will be aimed at helping centres deal with the extra costs incurred through dealing with the coronavirus crisis, taking the total funds dedicated to the sector up to $850 million.

Providers in metropolitan areas will get a $900 support payment per occupied bed, while in regional areas providers will get a 50 per cent lift on that to $1,350 in recognition of the higher costs they tend to have. 

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy added New South Wales and Tasmania were now the only states or territories where the numbers of new cases were significant enough to model an effective reproduction rate (ERR) for the virus. 

"Our case numbers are so low now that we can analyse each case, each cluster, and get really detailed epidemiological information on what's happening," he said.

"We needed eeded a well prepared health system with good surge capacity, with enough ventilators and an ICU expansion capacity. All of those are in place.

"Personal protective equipment (PPE) was a big issue - very pleasing to say that we now are very clear that we have enough masks. That's a great thing after all the issues we've had with masks and making sure we can bring in sufficient supplies."

"We're still doing some work to be absolutely confident about other elements of PPE but we've got good confidence and those supply lines are now being restored."

There have been 12 new cases (9 NSW, 3 VIC) reported in Australia today, but 25 recoveries have been recorded meaning there are now 931 known active cases nationwide.

ACT became the first territory or state in Australia to declare no active cases yesterday, and has again reported no new cases today as has Queensland.

The Northern Territory now only has three active cases and hasn't reported a new case since 6 April. As a result, the territory has the most aggressive restriction relaxation plan in Australia. 

If South Australia reports no new cases later this afternoon, it will be the ninth consecutive day without a new positive COVID-19 test in the state. 

Updated at 2:19pm AEST on 1 May 2020

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