Grim reality of ‘COVID-safe Australia’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has provided some insight into what a COVID-safe Australia will look like, saying cases won't go down to zero.
In an exclusive Facebook Live interview with news.com.au this evening, Mr Morrison answered Australians' questions about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
"When we get back to what I'd call a 'COVID-safe Australia' - which is what we're aiming to get back to, when a lot of the restrictions will be able to be pared away - there will still be cases," Mr Morrison said.
"I mean, it won't be eradicated. There will still be outbreaks."
Mr Morrison and other state premiers have all been warning that cases will likely increase once coronavirus restrictions are eased.
"There obviously will be cases in a whole bunch of workplaces," he said.
"The goal is not to bring it down to zero.
"That's not a practical expectation. It is to ensure that we can keep on top if, that if there are outbreaks we can shut them down, that when people contract it we can isolate them, and we can ensure that the health system remains in a position to be able to respond.
"That way we can get the economy open and we can stay on top of the coronavirus."
Life in Australia won't likely return to normal until an effective treatment is developed or a vaccine is found, which could take up to two years to develop.
But Mr Morrison said restrictions would be eased "gradually" to give Australians more freedom.
"Until there's a vaccine then there isn't the possibility of us getting fully back to normal, but we want to get as close as we possibly can," he said.
The PM is expected to announce on Friday that gatherings of up to 10 people in the family home will be allowed in time for Mother's Day, according to 7News.
Mr Morrison told news.com.au's Samantha Maiden on Wednesday night that restrictions would be eased gradually but "every one of those states is in charge of what happens in their state, ultimately".
Australia's death toll stands at 97 and there have been almost 6900 cases of coronavirus since January.
But a number of states, including South Australia and Western Australia, have gone more than a week with a single new recorded infection.
Some states have already announced the lifting of some restrictions with the Northern Territory released a detailed "road map" to significantly wind back COVID-19 restrictions over the next month.
The plan will see cafes, bars and restaurants reopened on May 15 with two-hour limits, and a mandatory purchasing of food at pubs. After two weeks, the state will remove the time and purchasing limits if case numbers do not increase.
Queensland is chasing the green light to reopen dining establishments from June, with National Cabinet set to make a decision this Friday.
Nationally, the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) wants to begin limited trading of pubs and hotels in early June and hopes to see restrictions progressively lifted throughout the year.
It has recommended measures that could be taken to limit the spread of the coronavirus but says maintaining the 1.5 metre social distancing rules would see many businesses fail.
Restaurant and Catering Australia have also made recommendations for resuming dining.
Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said once restrictions eased, authorities expected to see more outbreaks but they were hoping to keep these to case numbers of perhaps less than 100.
"That is the sort of thing we know we can manage," he told reporters on Tuesday.
"We don't want to have any situation where there is broad transmission over a long period of time where you end up with several hundred cases and a large outbreak.
"That is the sort of thing we are trying to avoid."
Prof Murphy said there were a number of activities that would be unlikely to resume including huge gatherings for footy grand finals.
During the Facebook Live, the PM was asked why there hadn't been many coronavirus cases among workers in Coles, Woolworths and Bunnings despite them continuing to operate fairly normally.
Mr Morrison gives the credit to employers.
"Why haven't there been more at retail shops? I haven't seen the stats specifically on that, but what I would say is employers have put in place social distancing and procedures to keep their patrons safe," Mr Morrison said.
"That's where I've seen businesses do amazing things to adapt to this new environment."
Asked when the Bunnings sausage sizzle would reopen, he jokingly acknowledged its status as an "essential service", and said it was "certainly be on my list" of things he's looking forward to.
Originally published as Grim reality of 'COVID-safe Australia'