Although Australia’s confirmed coronavirus cases appear to be stabilising, the country’s federal health minister says it’s too soon to tell if we can ease social restrictions.
The government is focusing on “consolidating the containment”, but is also already “planning the road out”, Greg Hunt said on Monday.
Officials will look for three elements before deciding how and when distancing rules will be lifted. They will also be guided by medical advice.
“One is a clear indication that we are suppressing the case numbers in Australia,” Mr Hunt said.
“It could be case numbers, the re-transmission rates, all of which are being developed into an assessment protocol,” he said.
“Secondly, it's about making sure that we have rapid response capability,” Mr Hunt continued, praising the states and territories for doing an “amazing” job.
“Thirdly - and this is the work that the Prime Minister has been deeply engaged in - planning through once those things are achieved, the steps out, which would also be gradual.”
Mr Hunt said “sophisticated, successful countries in coronavirus management” like South Korea, Japan and Singapore have had to tighten measures in some ways.
“So, we want to make sure that the more we do now, the greater our ability to manage it in the future,” he said.
Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy also said it is still too early to relax strict social distancing rules.
"The scale of measures at the moment are something that we clearly do have to review ... but it's not now, it's within the next few weeks," he told ABC radio.
"I think we need to look at all of the data, look at our preparedness, and the national cabinet will be making a lot of decisions about what, if anything, can be relaxed in the coming weeks."
Prior to the long weekend, Australians were asked to remain at home and adhere to social distancing measures in lieu of celebrating as they usually would.
On Monday, Mr Hunt praised Australians for doing just that.
“Australians have done what we had hoped - and more. They have stayed at home. They have self-isolated,” he said.
“They have responded with the best sense of Australia imaginable.”
He pointed out transport movements over Thursday, Friday and Saturday were 13 per cent below what they usually are this time of year.
“I couldn't be more impressed, more honoured, and more heartened by the work of Australians over the Easter weekend and in the weeks before,” he said.
Mr Hunt said the latest data indicates the growth in new cases is just below two per cent.
He confirmed there are 6,335 cases of COVID-19 in Australia, but 3,338 Australians who were infected have now recovered.
“What that means is that we are now beginning to see a consolidated flattening of the curve,” Mr Hunt said, though he added that does not mean the challenge is over.
“There is still growth and there could, at any time, be outbreaks and spikes,” he warned.
“But this is a cause for real hope and real aspiration. We said at the start that we would get through this. We are getting through this. And now I know - and I believe absolutely - we will get through this.”
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