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The restrictions which could be lifted first as Australia flattens the curve

One of Australia’s former state chief health officers believes the majority of current restrictions in place to fight the coronavirus outbreak will have been lifted within six months.

Queensland University of Technology Professor Gerry Fitzgerald, Queensland’s former chief health officer, says if Australia can continue its trajectory and suppression success, it can look to a “gentle opening up” of society in about a month’s time.

But that would be a staggered effect, with all restrictions bar international travel, to be lifted over a six-month period.

Live blog: Latest news and updates about the crisis in Australia

"It's all about the risk of the closure of our systems against the risk of the virus," he told Nine News.

Prof Fitzgerald said the first easing of restrictions could see all children return to school, workers return to offices and retail stores to reopen.

That is likely to happen in about three weeks, after Scott Morrison announced last week Australia could lift restrictions in four weeks if it sufficiently ramps up testing, contact tracing and its ability to handle further outbreaks.

A lone shopper walks through a deserted outlet centre in Brisbane on Tuesday. Retail could return to a certain level of normality soon, Prof Fitzgerald believes. Source: AAP
A lone shopper walks through a deserted outlet centre in Brisbane on Tuesday. Retail could return to a certain level of normality soon, Prof Fitzgerald believes. Source: AAP

In three months, he believes indoor and outdoor social distancing measures could be eased, meaning people could gather in larger groups for example at a dinner party or outdoor exercise group.

"If you know the people who are coming to your house party you can trace them if there is a problem," he said.

This would also include dog parks, outside gyms and playgrounds.

Resumption of international travel perhaps a year away

He believes interstate travel around Australia could take anywhere between three to six months to resume, and this could include a relaxation of border restrictions with New Zealand.

On Thursday, Scott Morrison told reporters he has been in discussions with NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern over such a move.

The badly-hit hospitality industry could return to some elements of normality in about four months, Prof Fitzgerald said, however strict social distancing measures would need to be applied in pubs, cafes and restaurants.

Events with large amounts of people in confined spaces, such as sporting fixtures and concerts, could begin to return from six months, he said.

With Australia unlikely wanting to jeopardise their strong position, which could even reach the point of coronavirus eradication, the government is said to be reluctant in hastily opening its international borders.

According to Prof Fitzgerald, international travel is at least a year away.

"What we don't want to do as a society is to start doing something and have to turn around again," he told Nine News.

Last week, Professor Archie Clements at Curtin University, who specialises in epidemiology, told Yahoo News Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory and Western Australia could move ahead of other states while keeping their own borders closed if their strong numbers continue.

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