Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state premiers will convene for a national cabinet today to outline a framework that the states can tailor to their individual circumstances.
Increasing the number of people who can gather at households to 10 people is one measure that will be considered, allowing children’s birthday parties to resume, but the pace of how quickly the changes will be rolled out will be left to the states.
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Some states are already well ahead of that timetable with the Northern Territory placing no limits on the guest list at weddings as long as the function is held outside.
Proposals to re-open cafes with social distancing across Australia, allowing larger groups at funerals and weddings, and a road map to lift domestic travel restrictions will be considered under the plan.
As each measure is rolled out it will be given several weeks to settle in and test whether it triggers a new spike in cases.
Health Minister, Greg Hunt has predicted the world will be watching as Australia and New Zealand become among the first nations in the world to not only flatten the curve but lift restrictions.
“In terms of our isolation, tomorrow the National Cabinet will consider the first stages on the road out and that’s only possible because of the extraordinary work of Australians,’’ he said ahead of the meeting.
“Again, I say thank you. You have helped put us in this position, where Australians will now be at the forefront of beginning to regain their lives as the world looks on.
“What we’ve consciously done is established the baselines and said that, as states are comfortable, then they can move forward, and so tomorrow there will be the final decision of the National Cabinet on the framework and my hope and expectation is that that will set out clear stages and then each state will determine how they’re able to move.”
The Morrison Government has outlined the huge cost of the shutdowns this week including $4 billion a week hit to the economy.
There are now five million workers on the $1500 a fortnight wage subsidy JobKeeper and a million workers are newly unemployed.
New research has also predicted the suicide rate is set to spike among those hit hard by COVID-19 and unemployment and could soon dwarf the death rate for the coronavirus.
But NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian cautioned that families should not expect any changes ahead of the weekend and Mother’s Day.
Two adults and their children can already visit another friend or relative in NSW under previously announced changes.
“And while National Cabinet is considering easing some restrictions from Friday … I doubt very much that NSW will be in a position to implement anything before Mother’s Day, and I want to make that clear,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“Having said that, please know that two adults and children can visit at any one time, and a mother can accept multiple visits per day.”
There are some things however that experts warn will not change in the COVID-19 era and that includes social distancing and handwashing.
“It’s extremely important that we keep those basic measures – the 1.5m, the hand hygiene, the cough etiquette – these are not polite things to do. These are lifesaving, necessary measures,’’ Mr Hunt said.
Since the first case was detected in Australia there have been 6,891 infections and 97 deaths.
Mr Hunt said as the restrictions are lifted we should expect there will be outbreaks from time to time.
“We warned about it previously, but I’ll continue to say, as we go forwards, there will be cases of outbreaks or spikes, and that’s why our testing, our tracing and our public health responses and our immediate rapid response capability are so critical and are being put in place,’’ he said.
“Today in particular, I’m delighted that for the first time we have passed more than 6,000 cases of people that have cleared the virus. The latest advice I have
“Sadly, we have lost 97 beautiful lives along the way, many of them elderly. So that’s why we’ll continue to fight. We are down to 24 people in ICU, and 17 people on ventilators. But we’ll continue to push to save and protect every life.”
Mr Hunt said the national cabinet will outline the road map but again stressed the pace that states choose to adopt is a matter for them.
“So the National Cabinet sets the baselines, the standards and the stages, and then each state has to determine where they’re at against those challenges,’’ he said.
“And so in particular what we’re doing is making sure that there are common standards across the country and then, as any individual state faces their own circumstances, they can determine how ready and willing they are to get to the new stages. So, as I’ve said before, any restriction being lifted in any state is a cause for celebration.”