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Strict lockdown until June: The two options out of the coronavirus pandemic for Australia.

The federal government has been presented with two COVID-19 recovery plans: controlled adaptation with restrictions eased sooner, or elimination, which could keep restrictions in place until June but increase public confidence and economic activity.

More than 100 researchers contributed to the ‘Roadmap to Recovery’ report which was delivered to Health Minister Greg Hunt and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee this week, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Thursday, April 30 coronavirus headlines. Post continues below video.

Video via Channel 9

Hunt has labelled Australia’s low case numbers of COVID-19 a “cause for hope”, and some states have begun relaxing social distancing measures.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has indicated no national restrictions will be eased before May 11.

Hunt said the report from researchers would “help inform, guide and where necessary challenge our ongoing work and for that I am deeply thankful”.

These are the two options put forward by the report for how to ease Australia out of social distancing and put us on the road to recovery from the coronavirus pandemic:

Controlled adaptation.

With controlled adaptation, certain restrictions could be eased as early as May.

The option acknowledged the ongoing risk of transmission and Australia’s system to manage it, and said it risked infection ‘surges’ that could result in a return of more strict measures.

There would be a ‘slightly higher’ number of infections, hospitalisations and deaths, compared to the elimination strategy.

Controlled adaptation would require extensive testing and contact tracing in response to outbreaks.

The report said it was difficult to predict how confident the public will be in responding to relaxed restrictions, with potential for “slower” recovery of economic and social life.

Researchers in support of this strategy said it “acknowledges the high likelihood of prolonged global circulation of this infection” and it would see Australia adapted to live with the ongoing risk.

Elimination.

The elimination strategy would see lockdown measures extended beyond mid-May until June, with a two week wait needed after new local cases fall to zero, but would eventually allow for a greater relaxation of social distancing measures and other restrictions.

The option could require extended travel barriers within Australia, but would minimise the number of infections, hospitalisations and deaths.

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Like controlled adaptation, elimination would require extensive testing and contact tracing. There would be a risk from asymptomatic carriers.

The report stated elimination would create a psychological sense of safety and wellbeing and more “vigorous” economic recovery, projected to be a five per cent higher level of economic activity per month from August.

However, the researchers found another month of lockdowns could impose an estimated two per cent blow to GDP.

“Elimination means you have extinguished the fire, you have a really good system of smoke detectors in place and you have a system to deal with any embers that come in,” Australian National University public health physician and epidemiologist Emily Banks said, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Travel restrictions.

Under both strategies, strict border restrictions would remain for the foreseeable future.

Researchers who favoured each option came to a consensus that Australians would not be able to travel overseas except for essential reasons, and anyone arriving in the country must be put into enforced and monitored two-week quarantine.

There could be a possibility to allow travel between certain countries – most likely New Zealand, and potentially other Pacific islands – if a bilateral agreement could be made and those nations had the same success in containing the virus.

On Wednesday, Morrison confirmed talks with New Zealand officials about a ‘Trans Tasman bubble’ were already taking place.

Both approaches would also require extensive testing and tracing as well as strong, clear communication from the government to keep the public informed, engaged and trusting of the rules.

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Feature image: Getty.

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