‘Huge risk’ if restrictions lifted too early, says Chief Medical Officer


“There is a huge risk in doing so and we have certainly said that it is not the right time now,” he said. “We want to spend the next few weeks looking at the framework with the national cabinet and helping them to make a decision.”

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has repeatedly said he expects social distancing measures to be in place for the next six months.

Professor Murphy said international travel remained a huge issue after a flight carrying up to 80 Australians with coronavirus from the Greg Mortimer cruise ship landed in Melbourne on Sunday morning.

“While this pandemic is across many other countries, we’re going to need some form of border measures,” he said.

“[Easing travel restrictions] would be a decision for the national cabinet and government until we get a vaccine or this virus moves through the community.”

Chief health officers have maintained a vaccine is between 12-18 months away.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the curve had been flattened in Australia compared to the exponential rise of just a few weeks ago. Cases were increasing by more than 20 per cent a day back then and other countries who had lifted restrictions had seen new outbreaks.

“I think the Australian people are prepared for restrictions for as long as it takes, to be honest, because we have got to take the medical advice,” Mr Frydenberg said on ABC Insiders. “It served us well.”

He said Singapore and Japan both thought they had great success with stopping coronavirus but have now seen a second wave of cases and Sweden, with half the population of Australia, had 10 times the number of deaths.

“We have to take the medical advice. It is very dangerous – and unrealistic – to move ahead of the medical advice,” he said, adding that Prime Minister Scott Morrison has prepared the nation for six months of restrictions at least but there was no “crystal ball”.

“As the Prime Minister has said, patience is a virtue. Complacency is a problem. And everyone needs to understand that this is a very fluid and difficult situation.

“When you look around the rest of the world, the United States, Europe, parts of Asia, even closer to home, we don’t want to have those experiences and so far our medical experts and those on the front-line are the real heroes of the crisis.”

Education Minister Dan Tehan said the federal government wanted all schools to open for term two and has warned independent schools they risk losing federal funding if they do not provide classrooms for essential workers.

“When it comes to parents who have to work and vulnerable children, schools have to be open and have to make sure that they provide a safe learning environment for those children,” he said.

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Responding to teachers’ fears about being infected by asymptomatic children, Mr Tehan said he had yet to see evidence of transmission in the classroom.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention published research on Monday showing children were less likely to develop any of the major coronavirus symptoms. There is no evidence to conclude whether children are or are not spreaders of the disease.

Professor Murphy said it was too early for the NRL to begin planning a season restart, as the code maintains it has the all-clear to begin in May.

“I note NSW Health has been dealing with the rugby league,” said Professor Murphy. “My personal view is it is premature to be planning things but that is a matter for NSW.”

On Saturday, NRL chairman Peter V’landys published a letter from NSW State Emergency Operations confirming the NRL “can train and play”.

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