Here's What Health Authorities Will Look For Before Australia Eases More Restrictions
Australia's three-step roadmap to ease out of coronavirus restrictions has been set, but authorities have stressed a number of factors will need to be considered before states and territories can move through each stage.
Some states have already detailed their own roadmaps to easing restrictions over the next few months, while others, including NSW and Victoria have confirmed they will wait until next week to announce any changes to their COVID-19 rules.
While the decision on when and how states and territories implement the national framework ultimately lies with each premier and chief minister, it's hoped most restrictions will be lifted by July.
On Saturday, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly detailed some of the factors health authorities could look at during the cooling-off period between each stage -- to help determine whether it's safe to proceed with lifting further restrictions.
Kelly told reporters one of the components included the number of new cases that are recorded around the country as rules around COVID-19 gradually ease.
He said while authorities weren't looking at a specific threshold number of new cases, Australia is currently seeing "about 20 a day" which he said was "very manageable."
"Certainly if there was a large increase in cases over the next few weeks than that would be a concern," Kelly said.
But he added that authorities would be looking particularly closely at how new cases of coronavirus are dispersed.
"If we were to see lots of cases around a dispersed geographical area then that would be more concerning, really, then a specific outbreak like we are seeing in western Melbourne at the moment," Kelly said, referencing a cluster of confirmed cases at a Cedar Meats factory.
"So that is a contained area, we know where it has come from," he added.
"That facility has been closed, all of the people that have been diagnosed are in self-isolation, their contacts have been traced."
"So even though that is a relatively large number of case... it is a specific point and so that would not be as concerning as finding a few cases in eastern Melbourne or central Melbourne ... or anywhere n Australia."
Kelly said health authorities would also be looking at the 'R effective' or the reproductive number -- the number of other people a single case infects on average.
"On the other hand, if there is very few cases or those cases are mainly coming from returning from overseas and already in quarantine, even if that was a relatively large number that wouldn't be as much of a concern to the wider society," he said.
Other factors would also come into play, Kelly said, including the capacity of health systems to respond to a local outbreak or cluster, how quickly people can be traced, how many people are in intensive care and the country's PPE supplies.
While Kelly described the three-step framework to ease restrictions as a "watershed moment" for Australia's response to the pandemic, government and health authorities have repeatedly stressed that easing of restrictions will likely result in new outbreaks of the virus.
"There will be risks, there will be challenges, there will be outbreaks, there will be more cases, there will be setbacks," Scott Morrison said on Friday.
"Not everything will go to plan."
The Prime Minister said the three-step plan would be reviewed every three weeks, with each stage implemented over time in order to assess any health impacts.
"The pace, though, will totally be up to the states and territories," he said.
"They'll be responsible for setting their own timetable and communicating that to their citizens and residents."
'Different Stage One': Camping, Regional Travel Allowed In South Australia As State Relaxes Restrictions
South Australia will be the first state to ease restrictions to allow regional camping and travel after Scott Morrison announced a three-step plan to return life in Australia to some degree of normalcy.
Under the national cabinet's three-step plan, it's hoped many of the restrictions currently in place will have lifted by July, with the amount of people allowed at gatherings to be up to 100 and most businesses to have reopened.
It's hoped interstate travel will also be opened again in the final stage, but on Saturday Kelly reaffirmed that international travel was still not on the table.
"The third step is not quite back to normal as it was before Covid-19," the deputy CMO told reporters, saying it was still too early to determine what 'stage 4' of lifted restrictions would look like.
"The opening of borders for international travel, that is one that is so far into the future we were not really sure how it might actually happen yet," he said, adding that the 'trans-Tasman' bubble between Australia and New Zealand has been discussed "quite a lot" by the two Prime Ministers.
Kelly said while Australia is unlikely to look the same as it did prior to the pandemic anytime soon, "we are all on the same road across Australia".
"It is just that different states and territories have had different starting points and they will be using that same roadmap but at slightly different speeds."
Kelly warned it was also not the time to get complacent about the virus.
"We know it is very infectious, we know that that infection increases the more that we interact with other people," he said, urging elderly Australians and those with chronic illnesses to be particularly cautious as restrictions ease.
"Even if things are opening up and people are gathering, shops, cafes and so forth are now available," he said.
For people over the age of 70 I would just urge caution about your own health and consider that, including having people over to your house.
There have been 6929 cases of COVID-19 recorded in Australia since the outbreak started and 97 deaths.
On Saturday, Kelly said 16 new cases had been recorded around the country in the last 24 hours.
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