Insight to the end – the three tests Australia needs to pass to ease coronavirus restrictions
We were all a little apprehensive heading into the Easter weekend, not knowing if our fellow Australians were going to continue to abide by social-distancing measures. The results are now in and it turns out the majority of us were very good civilians, earning praise from Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt. He has, however, warned us that the end is not yet near and there are three key tests Australia needs to pass before coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
Health Minister Greg Hunt applauded Australians for complying with the Prime Minister’s order to stay home over the Easter break, to help ensure that the virus was not spread due to unnecessary travel. We did good, kids – in the words of Minister Hunt, “Australians have done what we had hoped – and more. They have stayed home. They have self-isolated”. Although we are helping to slow the spread, that doesn’t mean restrictions will be lifted any time soon, however. The Health Minister has stated that authorities were “actively planning the road out” and outlined the three key tests that the country will need to pass before coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
A sustained decrease in cases
The first (and most understandable) test is a further fall in COVID-19 cases in Australia. Mr Hunt said, “one [test] is a clear indication that we are suppressing the case numbers in Australia”. While we are tracking relatively well – we have managed to flatten the curve – with fewer than 100 new cases a day recorded in the past week, a further fall in cases is needed. Exactly what that measure is, is currently being developed into an assessment protocol.
Sufficient rapid-response capabilities
A serious concern surrounding the pandemic has been the overloading of our health system and resources, particularly ventilators for intensive-care units. Our healthcare authorities want to ensure that if there is a sudden surge in cases, hospitals will have what they need to treat patients. The Federal Government is growing confident that we will soon have enough ventilators, however we need to be prepared to quickly trace and test any potential outbreak. Mr Hunt said, “if there were individual cases which broke out into a local spike, then the ability to respond, contain and to isolate will be absolutely critical to Australia’s capacity to, further down the track, progressively lift restrictions on a step-by-step basis”.
A well-planned exit strategy
Just as there have been gradual steps increasing social-distancing measures, the same will happen on the way out. The press conference confirmed that the Government was working on the plan for the steps out of the current measures, including the gradual reopening of businesses. The Prime Minister stressed that social-distancing measures will still likely be in place for at least six months – potentially longer if a vaccine isn’t developed – and that the reopening of businesses would likely be scattered and differ from state to state. The Government is currently looking to South Korea, Japan and Singapore and assessing their exit strategies to guide ours.
In short – we have a ways to go before life returns to normal. Although we are seeing positive results from social-distancing measures so far, no one can really predict when it will be safe for all of them to be lifted. For example, while we might be allowed to go out for dinner again in the coming months, Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham has quashed any dreams of overseas travel any time soon – domestic travel bans will be lifted well before anyone is allowed on an international flight. Terribly sorry to inform you, but your Euro summer plans probably need to be pushed to 2022. Remember, however, that there are a lot of local Australian tourism and hospitality businesses that have already been hit twice in 2020 – so your dollars (and travel dreams) are much better focused on home soil for now!
For an up-to-date snapshot on the coronavirus crisis, take a peek at our Quick Quarantine Updates. For help understanding the cabinet confusion, head to our constantly updated Dissecting Scomo coverage.