Opening up the country: Some restrictions to be eased ahead of schedule

Matt Woodley

29/05/2020 5:16:22 PM

With June marking the unofficial beginning of a nationwide easing of pandemic restrictions, newsGP looks at changes being made in each state and territory.

Graphic representing coronavirus National Cabinet
Several states and territories plan to lift social distancing measures earlier than expected.

Several states and territories have emerged Friday’s National Cabinet meeting with plans to lift social distancing measures earlier than expected.
Australia’s success at flattening the curve has emboldened leaders hoping to kick-start economies that have struggled under lockdown.
New South Wales will allow large clubs to open their doors to hundreds of patrons, while South Australia has signalled it will now let up to 80 people in licensed venues from Monday 1 June.
In Western Australia, up to 300 people will be permitted in some indoor and outdoor settings from Saturday 6 June. It will also once again be legal to serve alcohol without a meal, while all food businesses will also be able to operate with seated service.
Following the National Cabinet meeting on Friday 29 May, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy revealed 30,000 tests are being conducted around the country each day – with a positivity rate of 0.05% – and that there are now only two people currently on ventilators in Australia.
‘It is too early to draw definitive conclusions, but we are on track. All the measures we thought should be stable and in good shape remain in good shape at the moment,’ he said.
‘We would still like to do more tests. We would like every person with an acute respiratory problem, cough, cold, to get tested. It is the way to track the virus.
‘We do need to watch the data over the next one to two weeks to make sure that we’re not getting more than the expected small outbreaks that we do expect to see as we relax restrictions.’
Earlier in the week, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia is unlikely to see a return to sweeping shutdowns, and that future coronavirus outbreaks will instead be contained through contact tracing and localised shutdowns.
‘If there is a suburban, facility-based, or if there is a regional outbreak, we want those localised rings of containment,’ he told reporters in Canberra on Monday.
‘It would only be if there was a systemic state-wide outbreak that we would look at reversing. At this stage our belief is that is highly unlikely.’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also flagged the strong likelihood of future outbreaks as restrictions relax, but said Australia is making progress ‘far sooner’ than was previously imagined.
‘What are the expectations? Are our expectations of zero cases? No. That has never been our expectation, nor our goal,’ he said.
‘If it’s achieved as a by-product then well and good. But the fact that a case or a group of cases may present is not something that should restrict moving ahead and getting progress on implementing the three-step plan.’
Prime Minister Morrison added that the COVIDSafe app has now been downloaded 6.1 million times and that the National Cabinet has agreed to a set of principles on how public transport can operate safely as restrictions ease.
Professor Murphy told reporters people can choose to wear masks on public transport if they like, particularly during peak time, but it will not be compulsory.
‘We did have a final discussion today on public transport, how to make it as safe as possible by trying to reduce density, staggering travel times, lots of hand hygiene,’ he said.
‘[The] AHPPC [Australian Health Protection Principal Committee] has recognised in a public transport situation people may choose to wear masks when up close to other people and we recognise that is not an unreasonable thing to do.’
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has said people in his state who can work from home must continue to do so in order to reduce numbers using the roads and public transport, following a recent spike after stage 1 restrictions were relaxed.
From Monday 1 June, the Victorian Government will be able to fine businesses that force their employees to return to the office up to $9913, due to fears it will increase the risk of a second wave of infections.
‘Just to avoid any doubt we wanted to have the message as clear and as sharp as possible: If you have been working from home you must keep working from home,’ Premier Andrews said.
The directive will be in place until at least until the end of June and is in contrast to advice in other states, where a staged return to workplaces is set to begin from 1 June.
Premier Andrews has also encouraged employees to report their boss if they to try to get them to return to the office.
However, other restrictions will ease over the next week, with Victoria giving the green light to gatherings of 20 people 1 June.
Public schools across NSW and Queensland have welcomed children back after about two months of most students learning from home, while Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT are staging staggered returns. Schools in South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory are already open.
At the time of publication on 29 May, there were 467 active cases of coronavirus across the country, including 27 in hospital and five in intensive care. The current death toll stands at 103.
More than 1.36 million Australians have been tested, of which 0.5% have returned positive samples.
State and territory breakdown of planned changes to coronavirus restrictions

  • The ACT is set to transition to step 2.1 of its roadmap to recovery at 11.59pm on 29 May
  • Step 2.2 will come into force on at 11.59pm on 19 June
  • From Monday 1 June large clubs with multiple dining areas will be able to accommodate hundreds of patrons, provided they meet certain conditions
  • Up to 20 people will be able to attend weddings, while 50 will be allowed at funerals and places of worship
  • Beauty salons can reopen, with no more than 10 clients
  • Museums, galleries, libraries, zoos and aquariums can reopen
  • Regional travel within the state will be permitted, with spots to become available at some camping grounds and caravan parks
  • All venues are still required to abide by the four square metre rule
  • The NT moved to stage 2 of its roadmap to the new normal on 15 May, and will proceed to stage 3 at noon on 5 June
  • Further easing of restrictions will apply to specific activities from 1 June
  • Seating arrangements on trains will be converted to a 2x2 pattern, reduced from 3x3, to allow for social distancing
  • Arrows will be drawn on public transport, train station and platform floors to better direct foot traffic and stipulate which doors people can enter or exit
  • A new peak-period timetable will be introduced and the department is also working on new technology to provide commuters with real-time information through phone apps
  • Tasmania will not ease restrictions on 1 June, with the island state halfway between stages one and two on its roadmap to recovery
  • Years 7–10 will resume classroom education on 9 June, with other grades already back at school
  • The Victorian Government has announced the gradual easing of restrictions throughout the state from 11.59pm on Sunday 31 May, including;
  • Up to 20 people at a home at one time, including members of the household, children and babies. Visitors may stay over
  • A maximum of 20 people are allowed for indoor and outdoor gatherings, including at weddings, swimming pools, beauty and personal care services, libraries, museums and galleries, places of worship and other community facilities
  • Twenty people will be allowed in restaurants, cafes and pubs
  • People will be allowed to stay at holiday homes, tourist accommodation and caravan parks with no communal facilities
  • Outdoor amusement parks, zoos and arcades can open for up to 20 people
  • Outdoor cinemas will be allowed
  • From Saturday 6 June, up to 300 people will be permitted in some indoor and outdoor settings where there are multiple divided spaces, with only 100 people in each 
  • Under phase 3, all food businesses will be able to operate with seated service, and alcohol can be served without a meal
  • Beauty therapy, massage and personal care services can also re-open, as can galleries, theatres and concert venues
With AAP
The RACGP has more information on coronavirus available on its website.
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