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Road to recovery: PM announces 'three-step plan' to ease restrictions

Scott Morrison has advised gatherings of up to 10 people, the opening of small cafes and restaurants and intrastate recreational travel as part of a first stage in Australia’s road out of coronavirus restrictions.

Delivering a gradual national framework, the prime minister announced a three-stage process with a COVID safe economy predicted to be delivered by July.

Each stage will be evaluated after three weeks to see if it is feasible to progress to the next.

Live coronavirus blog: The latest from Australia

“Today our focus is on the road back. Today, we have put Australia in a position to go forward,” he said.

Mr Morrison addressed the media on Friday afternoon shortly after the highly-anticipated National Cabinet meeting where the decision to advise state and territories to ease their current restrictions was made.

Scott Morrison announced Australia's road to recovery. Source: AAP
Scott Morrison announced Australia's road to recovery. Source: AAP

“Be encouraged, Australia, that we are successfully making our way through this difficult battle on two fronts,” he said.

“Firstly, we're fighting the virus and we are winning. Secondly, we have put in place and are delivering the economic lifeline. Thirdly we move ahead with reopening the economy.”

Mr Morrsion said he hopes to restore 850,000 jobs at the end of the three stages.

Stage one easing of restrictions explained

In stage one, Mr Morrison advises to allow five people to visit a home and 10 people to gather in public and business settings.

This will “enable greater connection with friends and family,” he said.

Cafes and restaurants can open however are subject to the the 10-person gathering rule, Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy clarified.

The National Cabinet believes it is now safe to reopen libraries, community centres, playgrounds and boot camps.

While speculation prior to the meeting was rife over changes to organised community sport, that will widely be allowed in Stage two.

Currently stage one involves recreational sport in groups of no more than 10, which includes training if the capacity isn’t breached.

“Ten people in a park having a kick of a ball on a Sunday afternoon, that’s what Step one envisages,” Mr Morrison said.

Guidelines for outside funerals have changed to allow a capacity of 30, while weddings can have up to 10.

Working from home is only essential if “it works for you and your employer”, according to the the government’s COVIDSafe guidelines.

Local and regional travel is now advised. Mr Morrison clarified to reporters state border closures was never a recommendation of the National Cabinet and such decisions have been made independently by state and territory leaders.

Prof Murphy reminded those acting under new eased restrictions must do so with continued social distancing, including keeping distances of 1.5 metres from others.

Stage two and stage three outlined

Dependent on how successful Australia is in the coming weeks, the following two sets of changes will be advised in three weeks and then six weeks.

Stage two

* Gatherings of 20 people in your home, business and public places

* Work from home if it works for you and your employer

* Gyms, beauty, cinemas, galleries and amusement parks open with COVID-safe plans

* Organised community sport allowed

* Caravan and camping grounds reopen

* Some interstate travel

* States and territories may allow larger numbers in some circumstances

Stage three

* Gatherings of up to 100 people

* Return to workplaces

* Pubs, clubs, nightclubs, food courts, saunas and some gaming venues open

* All interstate travel resumes

* Consider cross-Tasman, Pacific island and international students travel

* States and territories may allow larger numbers in some circumstances

The three steps Mr Morrison outlined.
The three steps Mr Morrison outlined.

Premiers and chief ministers are now tasked with how and when they will implement the restriction changes Mr Morrison has outlined.

Yet there is no guarantee any state or territory leader will move immediately following the prime minister’s announcement, with Mr Morrison repeatedly reminding all decisions ultimately lie with them.

Mr Morrison predicted announcements on what changes would be made from premiers and chief ministers would come over the weekend or early next week.

International travel off for foreseeable future, PM warns

Aside from New Zealand, international borders will not be reopened in the near future and strict quarantine measures for people entering the country will remain in place.

“I can't see that happening any time soon. There's nothing on our radar which would see us opening up international travel in the foreseeable future,” Mr Morrison said.

Mr Morrison said the fear of going backwards should not stop the country from moving forwards.

"We know we need to be careful to preserve our gains. If we wish to reclaim the ground we lost, we cannot be too timid," he said.

Mr Morrison praised Australia for the steps they’ve taken the preceding weeks, putting protections in place to cope with and handle any kind of coronavirus outbreak, regardless of size.

“On the front-line, our testing and our tracing capabilities containing outbreaks, all backed up by a health system with more ICU beds and ventilators, more personal protective equipment, doctors, nurses, first responses, ready to go,” he boasted.

And while the government’s plans seem ambitious, Mr Morrison and Prof Murphy were cautious over the initial steps.

“We walk before we can run,” Mr Morrison said.

Prof Murphy said stage one was “gentle” and “not doing too much at once”.

“Because we're in uncharted territory. There's not many countries in the world like Australia that's 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. We also want to make sure that before we do anything, every Australian follows these measures.”

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