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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Three-step plan to ease COVID restrictions

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison today outlined a three-step ‘COVIDSafe’ plan that will see health restrictions lifted in a staggered fashion done at each State and Territory’s pace.

The first step of the plan will allow gatherings of up to 10 people, with five guests allowed into each household. Retail, and some cafes and restaurants will be able to reopen.

Step 1 was described as a “cautious, gentle easing” to enable greater connection with friends and family.

“It will see golfers back on the green, lap swimmers back in the pool, bootcamps back in the parks,” Mr Morrison said.

It will also allow for funerals with up to 30 attendees outdoors and 10 at weddings.

Employees will also be able to continue working from home if it suits “you and your employer”, Mr Morrison said.

Some interstate travel will be allowed, however opening international borders remains a long way off.

“We’re going to continue to quarantine all returning travellers because this virus is certainly in a much worse position in many other countries from which our citizens are returning,” said Federal Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy.

Step 2 will allow for larger gatherings of up to 20 people. Venues such as cinemas, galleries, beauty parlours, and indoors gyms will open (all with some caveats).

It will also see more retail openings, while organised community sport will resume.

By the time we reach the third step, the national pastime will officially be back on the cards.

Step 3 will allow for gatherings of up to 100 people. Pubs and clubs will open with some restrictions, also “possibly” gaming venues.

Professor Murphy said Step 3 will open “most of the economy” up while physical distancing and hygiene practices continue.

He expects most workers to be physically back in the workplace by that point.

Step 2 and Step 3 will become more clearly defined as Step 1 is moved through across Australia.

Professor Murphy advised throughout the three-step plan Australians must continue practicing physical distancing “all the time”, maintain good hand and respiratory hygiene, and stay at home when feeling unwell.

All phasing at discretion of States and Territories

Before you lock in your Mother’s Day plans, Mr Morrison flagged “there should be no expectation” of Step 1 starting today or tomorrow unless State or Territory leaders announce otherwise.

Although the pace at which the three-step plan is moved through will fall at the discretion of each State and Territory Government, Mr Morrison says he’s aspiring for Australia to have collectively moved through all three steps by July.

 “It is our aspiration, as agreed amongst Premiers, Chief Ministers and myself, that in July we will have moved through these three steps across the country.

“They will be responsible for setting their own timetable and communicating that to their citizens and residents in their own states and territories.

He advised moving from one step to the next will be dependent on each jurisdiction’s ability to conduct “testing, tracing, and responding to outbreaks”.

Progress will be reviewed nationally every three weeks with changes made as required.

Australia in rarefied air with low case numbers

Professor Murphy said the country is now entering unchartered waters with the three-step plan on the back of a swift flattening of the curve nationally.

“There are not many countries in the world like Australia that is in a position to start gently relaxing measures with such low case numbers.

“We don’t want to lose the control we’ve got. We want to make sure that outbreaks that occur are managed and controlled.”

With now over 5.3 million downloads, Prime Minister advised that downloading the Federal Government’s COVIDSafe app is the “best way” to help progress through the steps.

“People have been at home and know who they have been seeing each and every day for some time, but that’s going to change in the weeks ahead,” he said.

“You will be seeing more people. You will be connecting with more people, and so the COVIDSafe app will be even more important to protect you and your family and your safety.”