Some state governments have slowly started lifting coronavirus restrictions, making some allowances for people to resume some specific activities.
On Sunday, both Queensland and Western Australia relaxed restrictions as evidence grows of a successful flattening of the curve.
The lifting of restrictions has been discussed by both federal and state governments, but each looks to be taking an individual approach based on their own numbers and medical advice.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said no national restrictions would be lifted until at least May 11, which would be the end of a four-week period during which a number of key statistical metrics would be measured.
But state and territory governments are free to make their own calls on certain matters. This is where each one currently stands.
From Saturday, May 2, Queenslanders will have (slightly) more freedom than they have had for the past few weeks.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that people would be able to go for a drive within 50 kilometres of their home or go out for a picnic with members of their household.
Some non-essential shopping, like for clothes or shoes, would be permitted and some national parks would reopen.
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The Premier stressed that maintaining the existing social-distancing measures was essential, and that “if we do see mass gatherings, I will not hesitate to clamp back down”.
It’s a small step but one Ms Palaszczuk said was “a positive move”. These measures will be reviewed after two weeks of closely watching the numbers of new infections.
WA Premier Mark McGowan went a little further, announcing a “cautious relaxation” of some restrictions from Monday, April 27.
The two-person rule has been lifted, with indoor and outdoor non-work gatherings of up to 10 people now allowed to “ensure family and friends can stay connected during the pandemic”.
Like Queensland, West Australians are encouraged to “continue to practice appropriate social distancing”.
“The changes announced [Sunday] are sensible and reasonable and are designed to provide some relief for Western Australians,” Mr McGowan said.
New South Wales
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian spoke late last week about a potential lifting of some restrictions, and said the Government had been discussing the best way to go about it.
“We have used this time during restrictions when we have seen a drop in the number of new cases to prepare the health system, to prepare the community for what would occur if we did raise those restrictions,” she said.
But her enthusiasm may have been tempered by the scenes on Sydney’s beaches. A number of beaches in the Randwick council area were opened for exercise this week, which instead drew an influx of people over the weekend.
“I think the councils are having a very tough time as a result of some selfish individuals who think that beaches are their own personal backyard as I heard someone say. Well sorry, no they’re not, they’re actually a place that we all share and we have to share it safely,” NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.
Randwick council will reassess the situation on Monday.
Interestingly, the changes made in Western Australia bring that state basically in line with the restrictions that have been in place in South Australia all along.
And it looks likely to remain that way in SA for a while yet, with Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier saying the state would be “even more cautious” because of how little is known about this coronavirus.
“Whilst a lot has been learned about the virus, there is still a lot we do not know,” she said.
“This is an ultramarathon and this pandemic is going to be with us for a long time.”
The NT has been a real success story during the coronavirus pandemic, and as a result, there is optimism it could see more restrictions lifted quicker than other states and territories.
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Much of the Territory’s success has been due to the strict restrictions it put in place from the outset, including border controls and forcing overseas travellers to pay the bill for the mandatory 14-day quarantine period.
Last week, a spokesperson from the NT’s COVID-19 team border restrictions would be in place for some time yet, but other measures would be assessed.
“We will consider adjusting restrictions only when clinical advice indicates it is in the best interest of the Northern Territory community to do so,” the spokesperson said.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner’s message was clear.
“It will happen not a moment later than it needs to, and not a moment sooner,” he said.
Premier Dan Andrews and the Victorian Government have always had one date in mind when it’s come to discussing restrictions in the state — May 11.
That’s the day when Victoria’s state of emergency is scheduled to end, and that is the point that serious discussions will be had as to what, if any, restrictions can be lifted.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton reiterated on Sunday that nothing would change before May 11, which is also the date the National Cabinet will review its four-week trial.
“I’m not ruling out anything because I don’t know what transmission will look like this week or next week. But I think that the state of emergency going to May 11 is a nice line-up with National Cabinet process for a real look at changing the restrictions that are in place,” Mr Sutton said.
The situation in Tasmania has been made more difficult by the recent outbreak in the state’s north-west, which now has its own specific set of restrictions in place.
Those extended restrictions — which has seen non-essential retailers like Kmart and Harvey Norman closed — will be enforced until at least May 3, according to Premier Peter Gutwein.
The state’s more general restrictions were due to end — or at least be revisited — on May 15, but Mr Gutwein has flagged a cautious approach, even when some allowances are made.
“Social distancing will need to occur, businesses will have to change their operating models [until there is a vaccine],” he said.
“It simply won’t be business as usual and I think people understand that.”
Australian Capital Territory
Only seven people in the ACT currently have COVID-19, and the territory is on track to get that number down to zero within the next week or so.
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Chief Minister Andrew Barr has flagged easing some restrictions soon, but he remains cautious and says opening things like bars and restaurants would likely only be done in line with NSW and other states.
“Smaller family gatherings and smaller gatherings outdoors … are relatively low-risk in an environment where there are no active cases in the ACT for a two-week period,” Mr Barr said.
“Were we to reopen bars and restaurants, but they remained closed in NSW, then we would get quite an influx of people into the territory and that would lead to an increased risk.
“The biggest challenge is if we significantly loosen restrictions and then cases take off again, we may find ourselves having to lock back down, and maybe even more severely.”