'Take early steps': Health minister hints at easing restrictions as daily cases drop below 100

Tom Flanagan
News Reporter

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has hinted the government could take “early steps” in easing restrictions as daily coronavirus cases nationally dropped below 100.

Addressing the media on Thursday afternoon, Mr Hunt praised the nation’s effort to curtail the virus’s spread, which has resulted in just 96 cases in the 24-hour period prior to Thursday.

It was the first time a daily toll was under 100 in three weeks – a period where it once rose to 460.

“That's an exceptionally important development for Australia. Fewer cases, fewer risks, fewer lives at risk,” he said.

Coronavirus live blog: Latest news and updates from Australia

Greg Hunt hinted at restrictions being lifted earlier than expected if we continue to suppress the virus. Source: AAP

Mr Hunt was pressed by several reporters over Australia’s next steps and if the promising statistics meant the country could consider easing restrictions.

Seven News’ Mark Riley questioned how the government would “weigh up” easing of restrictions, which he said NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian had been hinting at, and an increase in cases and ultimately deaths.

“Our first goal is saving lives and protecting lives,” he said.

“The more successful we are, the more successful we are with the difficult but essential measures we are taking now, that gives us the chance to take steps out earlier,” he said.

Mr Hunt stressed the health advice hadn’t changed for the six-month period Prime Minister Scott Morrison continues to identify.

“We haven't changed our guidance over the 6-month period, but where we can take early steps that are safe, then we will obviously look to do that,” he said.

Mr Hunt said Australia would carefully analyse available data and what is being done in other countries to see “what is working and what is not working.”

“We are in the fortunate situation of having a... lower rate than the vast majority of the world per capita.”

Virus’s suppression and eased restrictions may co-exist

Deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth said it was “entirely possible” ease off restrictions at the same time as acting to suppress the virus.

“Our first objective is to save lives here and contain the epidemic while managing the implications on our society,” he said.

“We've been clear about the timeline. That strategy needs to be very, very nuanced and carefully thought out, and it is under consideration by the Australian committee as we speak.”

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