'Pandemic Is Not Over': Aussies Warned To Heed Health Advice
Australians are enjoying the benefits of restrictions being gradually lifted across the nation -- a reward for enduring weeks of curbs that have helped limit the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
But the repeated message from health authorities is to approach these new found freedoms with care for fear of sparking a second wave of the disease.
States and territories have begun the first stage of a three-stage process to lift restrictions on outdoor and indoor gatherings and business operations.
Australians are able to sit in pubs, cafes and restaurants for the first time in weeks after isolation and social distancing measures kept the lid on infections and COVID-19 deaths.
Australia's Bars Are 'Shaken Not Broken' With Cocktail Delivery Service Keeping Them Afloat
The plan to ease coronavirus restrictions will see patrons slowly return to Australia's bars and restaurants, but for struggling owners, it's not a magic fix, with one saying he'd need to charge $1000 a head to survive.
But Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said people cannot afford to be complacent.
"The pandemic is not over. The risk to vulnerable people remains significant," he told reporters in Canberra on Saturday.
Australian Medical Association president Tony Bartone said there is still a risk the virus could flare up as hot spots or small outbreaks.
"If we do the wrong things, we risk undoing all the gains that we've made so far," Bartone told ABC television.
"So, the message is, yes, appreciate all the efforts, appreciate the opportunity to release some of those measures, but let's not have a party, let's not go to town."
He said people must still maintain social distancing, cough etiquette, washing hands regularly and staying away from others if they are unwell.
"Those messages are really the backbone as we progressively lift those restrictions," he said.
The number of cases in Australia now stand at 7036 after 20 new cases were reported over the past 24 hours.
The death toll from the pandemic remains at 98, extremely low by international standards.
Kidd said over one million Australians have now been tested for COVID-19.
The new cases included 11 in Victoria,, including a further two infections connected to the west Melbourne abattoir cluster, which now stands at 98.
Elsewhere, a McDonald's restaurant in the north Melbourne suburb of Fawkner has recorded an additional case, with the outlet's cluster growing to 11.
There was only one new case in Queensland, while 193 people have been tested for COVID-19 at the North Rockhampton Nursing Centre after a nurse working at an aged care facility was diagnosed with the disease on Friday.
All tested negative, including 114 residents.
In NSW there were three new cases, while Tasmania recorded its first case in a week, a 70-year old man who was on the ill-fated Ruby Princes cruise ship.
The national cabinet met on Friday and endorsed a $48.1 million mental health response plan that is set to roll out in coming months, including research and support services.
Kidd recognised that many people are enduring "anxiety and stress and fear" as a result of the pandemic
"Many people are experiencing very significant financial stress due to job losses, many people are feeling very lonely and isolated, separated from family members and loved ones in other parts of the country," he said.
While Labor's health spokesman Chris Bowen welcomed the announcement, he wants the number of free Medicare mental health consultations increased, at least as a temporary measure during the crisis.
"I would call on the government to continue to work with mental health professionals and consider extending the Medicare mental health plans from 10 consultations to 20," he told reporters in Sydney.