'Australians Have Earned An Early Mark': PM Reveals Plan To Take Us Out Of Lockdown
National coronavirus restrictions could be relaxed as early as next Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, praising Aussies for sticking to the rules and recommendations from authorities.
"Australians have earned an early mark," the PM announced at a Parliament House press conference on Friday -- but only if "millions" more people download the COVIDSafe tracing app.
Morrison said the national cabinet will meet again twice next week, on Tuesday and Friday, with the latter meeting to discuss relaxing social distancing regulations at a federal level. The PM said there were 15 conditions which needed to be met before restrictions could be eased, and that as of Friday, 11 of those had been met -- but four, including uptake of the COVIDSafe app, were still not satisfied.
When asked at what stage Australians could "go back to the pub", Morrison said a greater number of downloads of the app was needed.
It was revealed a total of 6,765 Australians have now been diagnosed with coronavirus, with 93 deaths. Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy specifically singled out the fact that the country was "still consistently getting less than 20 new cases per day over recent days."
It comes as NSW allows residents to host two visitors at their homes, the first major relaxation of rules in the state worst-hit by coronavirus infections.
Morrison did not immediately detail what sort of regulations may be the first to be considered for relaxation, but -- as he did on Wednesday in a press conference -- the PM spoke heavily of the need to reopen Australian society and economy.
"We can't keep Australia under the doona," Morrison said, following a meeting of the national cabinet.
Murphy outlined that the 15 conditions needing to be met before restrictions were eased included expanding the health workforce, increased surveillance and tracking of cases, and boosted testing capacity. One of the four still outstanding is uptake of the tracing app.
Morrison and Murphy presented data to show how infections had gone down in line with Australians following social distancing rules.
Murphy said the only states where officials were tracking the effective reproduction rate of the virus were NSW and Tasmania, due to the low rate of infection and spread in those states. Data presented at the press conference stated that "all other states excluded due to very low case numbers."
Figures from Google and Apple, also presented at the conference, showed people spending less time driving and at public transport stations, and more time at home. The graphs were shown to sharply change after new restrictions were enacted.
However, Murphy also warned that Australia could not afford to endure a "second wave" of virus outbreak, warning that upholding hygiene and increasing testing were critical as restrictions may start to relax.
"Our testing has to be very, very good. The most important thing in testing is for everybody who has any respiratory symptoms, a cough or a cold or a sore throat, or a runny nose, please get tested. It's safe to get tested," Murphy said.
The PM said more than 1.5 million people had applied for Jobseeker welfare payments, and said forecasts showed unemployment in Australia may hit 10 percent.
He also detailed that more than 650,000 businesses had applied to be part of the JobKeeper wage subsidy payment, while some 950,000 Australians had applied for early release of their superannuation.
Around 3.5 million people have downloaded the COVIDSafe phone app, which Morrison again singled out as a key plank in the push to get parts of the economy and society reopened.
The PM and aged care minister Richard Colbeck also announced $205 million in funding for aged care facilities, in a bid to expand testing and care for the at-risk population of older Australians.