There have been 6103 confirmed cases in Australia and 51 people have died. About 260 people are in hospital, with 82 in intensive care and 35 on ventilators.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was clear social-distancing measures were slowing the spread of the virus but Australians would be living with them for at least six months.
“Restrictions will be reviewed regularly and planning for the medium to long-term has begun,” he said.
The spread of the virus has been more contained in SA and WA than on the east coast, meaning those states would likely be in a position to act sooner, providing a guide for Victoria and NSW.
Queensland Liberal MP Andrew Laming, a medical specialist and former infectious disease researcher, said on Thursday the government should begin to plan the subtle rolling back of the most extreme restrictions in areas were it was safe to do so as the coronavirus infection curve began to flatten.
He said efforts to flatten the curve were both impressive and reassuring and the sooner localised trials began to restore “something like normal life”, the better.
Dr Laming said national cabinet needed to carefully trial the unlocking of “cooler spots” that were well away from areas of high caseloads.
“The only way to understand how to deal with the next stage of COVID-19 is for public health experts to cautiously trial local relaxations,” he said.
“We will need to closely monitor regional relaxations, fully supported from the top level of political leadership and clearly explained in regular media addresses.”
Mr Hunt said there had been a “genuine consolidation” of the virus. Thursday was the first day in more than three weeks fewer than 100 people had been added to the list.
“That’s an exceptionally important development for Australia. Fewer cases, fewer risks, fewer lives at risk. But we’ve got a long way to go,” Mr Hunt said.
“The virus does not take a holiday – therefore none of us can relax what we do. This in many ways is the most important weekend we may face in the whole course of the virus.”
Mr Hunt said if Australians stayed home and locked in “the gains that we’ve made as a nation” it would “give ourselves the pathway through”, but warned social-distancing measures and bans on mass gatherings would likely be in place for six months or more.
“Where we can take early steps that are safe, then we will obviously look to do that,” he said.
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Rob Harris is the National Affairs Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra