Premiers keen to ease virus restriction

Colin Brinsden
Protesters defied public health warnings to rally across the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Premiers from across the nation are keen to ease COVID-19 restrictions further, even as a number of new cases were reported in the two most populous states and a rugby league game had to be postponed on fear of an infection.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says the national cabinet is not aiming for eradication of the virus and not every day has to be zero cases in order for Australia to continue "slowly, cautiously, gradually" opening up.

"We are going to see outbreaks ... That is what suppression strategy is all about," Mr Andrews told reporters in Melbourne.

"There would have been no opening up otherwise over recent weeks."

Mr Andrews, who has been particularly cautious, on Sunday announced that from next week, pubs and clubs in Victoria would be able to serve drinks without a meal for up to 50 people, while cafes and restaurants will also be able to increase their capacity to 50 patrons.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has scrapped the 50-person limit at cafes, restaurants, and churches instead to follow the one person per four square metres rule.

And there would no longer be a cap on the number of people attending a funeral from Sunday instead of July 1.

On the other side of the country, Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan said Perth's 60,000-seat Optus Stadium could be allowed to hold more than the 40,000 advised by the national cabinet last Friday under the next phase of easing COVID-19 restrictions, given low infection rates in the state.

The latest rounds of easing announcements came as Victoria and NSW both recorded nine new coronavirus cases since Saturday - the only states to record positive cases.

There have been over 7320 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across Australia and 102 fatalities, small by international comparison.

Only one case so far has been linked to one of the Black Lives Matter protests held last week, but authorities are still concerned about a new surge of cases and are warning against further mass gatherings

Protesters defied public health warnings to rally across the country amid the pandemic, taking to the streets for a second weekend in a row. The virus can take two weeks to show.

Three of the new Victorian cases were return travellers in hotel quarantine, while five were close family contacts of a GP who had recently tested positive, and one is under investigation.

Eight of the cases are among returned travellers in hotel quarantine and one is a teacher at Laguna Street Public School in southern Sydney.

All students at the primary school have been deemed close contacts and have been told to isolate, while the school is closed till Thursday.

The NRL game between the Bulldogs and Sydney Roosters due to be played in Sydney has been delayed because a child of one of the players attended the school.

However, Bulldogs forward Aiden Tolman has now been cleared of the virus and the game will go ahead on Monday.

Queensland's chief health officer Jeanette Young said the reopening of state borders was still pencilled in for July 10 when Stage 3 restrictions begin.

"If things were a lot better, then of course we could bring that date forward," Dr Young told reporters in Brisbane.

Australia's Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Alison McMillan is encouraged by the progress being made in developing a COVID-19 vaccine, but says its development can't be rushed.

The University of Queensland and Australian drug maker CSL have recently said they will have the capacity to make vaccines in the next to 12 to 18 months, encouraged by their recent trials.

"We need to make sure it's safe. While we are waiting for that vaccine, we need to keep doing what we've been doing so that we don't see further outbreaks," Ms McMillan told Sky News' Sunday Agenda program.