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From elective surgery to pubs: the first and last COVID-19 lockdown rules to be lifted.

As the number of new daily infections continues to decrease across the country, Australian’s efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus continue to produce positive results.

But although there’s no doubt that Australia has achieved a “sustained and genuine” flattening of the coronavirus curve, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt have reiterated that there’s still a long way to go before Australia’s lockdown measures can be eased.

In a press conference last Thursday afternoon, the Prime Minister confirmed that the current social distancing restrictions will stay in place for at least the next four weeks.

WATCH: Prime Minister Scott Morrison has “no plans” to change COVID-19 restrictions for the next four weeks. Post continues below.

On top of that, the National Cabinet has agreed on three things that need to be in place before restrictions can be lifted.

In the press conference, Morrison outlined the three steps for the “road out” of the current restrictions, including:

  1. More testing, including those without symptoms.
  2. Better contact tracing, including government tracing apps.
  3. Localised lockdown procedures.

READ: The 3 things the Government needs to see before COVID-19 restrictions can be lifted.

As we slowly move towards the easing of lockdown restrictions, many Australians have started to question which rules could be lifted first.

After elective surgeries and IVF were cancelled last month to keep hospital beds free, Scott Morrison announced today that some restrictions, including IVF, would be lifted after Anzac Day on April 25.

“Today we agreed to lift restrictions on elective surgery after Anzac Day, after the long weekend. This will not mean an immediate return to normal with elective surgery, but a gradual restart, subject to of course to capacity and other constraints that may exist in each jurisdiction,” the Prime Minister said.

Speaking to reporters in Canberra, Australian deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth shared that a “very cautious and safe approach” would be taken when relaxing the current restrictions.

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“We recognise that there are Australians out there who are in pain, have disability, can’t be in the workforce, that need to take very potent pain medication and need their elective surgery done,” he told reporters, as per news.com.au.

Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy also clarified that lifting restrictions around elective surgery would require having “enough protective equipment”.

Amid the easing of restrictions around elective surgery, it’s also reported that restrictions around beaches and parks are likely to be lifted soon.

Over the weekend, Randwick City council, on Sydney’s eastern suburbs, announced that they would reopen their beaches at Maroubra, Coogee and Clovelly for exercise purposes.

“Three weeks ago we made the decision to close beaches to help stop the spread of coronavirus. And while we know the past three weeks have been difficult on our beach-going lifestyle, the closure has helped stopped the spread,” the council said in a statement.

“Since then, the Government has introduced new social distancing and group gathering restrictions. We now feel we can allow our beaches to be accessed safely for exercise purposes only.”

The council clarified that surfing and swimming will be allowed, whereas sitting or sun-baking on the sand will not be permitted.

Gold Coast City Council in Queensland have also reopened a number of beaches.

As for schools, Western Australia Premier Mark McGown has confirmed that schools in his state will reopen from April 28, but parents can still keep homeschooling their children at home if preferred.

In Victoria, term two will be taught remotely, while in New South Wales, schools will reopen gradually from May 11 with students going back to school one day a week, before building up to a full-time return to the classroom from late July.

Although restrictions on elective surgery, schools and beaches will likely ease over the next few weeks, state and federal leaders have reiterated that it’ll be at least four weeks before the easing of social distancing measures is discussed.

“National Cabinet is going to have a discussion about some of the prerequisites for relaxing many of the rules,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews told The Australian.

“We can properly, in a cautious way, examine those ­(options) in the weeks and months ahead, and then we can potentially make some changes.”

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Speaking to Daily Mail, University of NSW professor Bill Bowtell said that the two-person rule could be slowly relaxed from June to allow small groups to congregate, however, he reiterated that the rules would have to be eased slowly.

“The more opportunity you give a virus to transmit from person to person, the more risk there is of a situation where you can’t trace the outbreak,” he said.

As for pubs, it’s looking more and more likely that restrictions could continue for many months.

“I just want to make it clear, the notion that pubs are opening any time soon, it’s not going to happen. Restaurants, bars, cafes, I just don’t think that’s going to be; the risk will be far greater than any reward. I think there are some areas we might be able to make some changes around the way people interact with others, around some of those more social measures,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews told The Australian.

Peter Collingon, a professor of microbiology at the Australian National University, echoed Andrews’ words.

“Unfortunately I don’t think until September this year at the earliest,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“Winter is coming and that is our next big risk time – for all respiratory viruses, including this one.”

As for interstate and international travel, it’s unclear when Australians will be able to take a holiday again.

Although it’s believed Australians may be able to start taking interstate holidays later this year, Australians have been warned to avoid booking any overseas holidays in 2020.

For more on COVID-19:

To protect yourself and the community from COVID-19, remain in your home unless strictly necessary, keep at least 1.5 metres away from other people, regularly wash your hands and avoid touching your face.

If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000. 

To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website.

Feature Image: Getty.


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