Australia in the “community transmission phase” of pandemic, with just 13 cases reported nationally in last 24 hours.
Scott Morrison said Australia is now in the third phase of COVID-19, flagging some restrictions will soon be rolled back.
Following a meeting of National Cabinet, the Prime Minister said the nation was making good progress on the road out of COVID-19, with the transmission rate remaining below 1 percent and testing amping up.
As of 6am this morning, only 13 cases of COVID-19 were reported nationally, bringing the total number of cases to 6,673.
Despite 78 people having lost their lives to the disease, there are over 5,000 who have fully recovered.
Just over 40 people remain in intensive care, with 29 on ventilators.
Mr Morrison confirmed Australia had now moved beyond the first two phases of the virus into the third, which he called the “community phase”.
“The first phase is what I’d call the ‘export phase’, that’s when the virus was first exported, transmitted out of China into many countries around the world and in that first phase, Australia moved very quickly to put in place the restrictions of travel into Australia,” he said.
“The second where Australia was more significantly impacted is what I’d call the ‘repatriation phase’ – the repatriation of Australian residents and citizens to Australia, as they returned from many parts o the world where there was that initial export of the virus. They became exposed to that and they brought it home to Australia and we saw many, many internationally acquired cases, and
more than two-thirds at certain times of the total number of cases in Australia.”
“We are now in that third phase which we have to protect against, that’s the “community phase”, where the virus actually moves from within our own community and that requires particularly different tools, building on the ones that we already have in place and that is the testing, that is the tracing, and that is the rapid response.”
After hearing from the Australian Health Protection Principal committee on the “pandemic intelligence plan”, which aims to test up to 50,000 Australians a day, Mr Morrison confirmed the Government was looking to lifting restrictions on community sport and getting more Australians back to work.
However, the Prime Minister was clear that before a broader relaxation of social distancing measures and stay-at-home orders, there needed to be total confidence the country was in a position to detect community transmission immediately and contain the subsequent virus spread.
The Chief Medical Officer confirmed anyone with “flu-like symptoms” would now be eligible for testing.
“Every State and Territory has now broadened their testing criteria from today so that anybody with acute respiratory symptoms – cough, sore throat, runny nose, cold symptoms, flu-like symptoms – can get tested,” Professor Brendan Murphy said.
“This will significantly expand the population of people tested. We’re pretty confident that
most of them will be negative, but this will give us a really broad reach of what we call passive surveillance. But we’re also looking at a range of active surveillance mechanisms to test even people without symptoms in a range of front-line occupations and a range of what we call sentinel situations,
where we sample the population.”
Professor Murphy said Australia should be testing 40,000 to 50,000 people a day to be “absolutely sure” about the effective containment of the virus
Masks not recommended
Professor Murphy said face masks were not recommended in the “general community” and provided a “false sense of security”.
“These masks often aren’t of particularly good quality, and they often provide a false sense of security and make people not practice the social distancing measures that we want,” he said.
“So, we are not recommending the general community wear masks.”
Mr Morrison said masks did not protect people from infection, and “at best” only prevented the wearer spreading any respiratory symptoms they had to other people.
National principals on sport and recreation to be created
Mr Morrison said the National Cabinet was honing in on sport and recreation, looking at how and when restrictions could be rolled back.
“We agreed to develop national principles for sport and recreation,” he said.
“Those principles would address these issues at three levels – the first, at the elite and professional level, so, the major sporting codes. Secondly, at the community competitive sport level. That is such an important part of our way of life here in Australia, and the principles that can help guide decisions by states and territories in the future.”
“And, thirdly, at the individual passive level of sport and recreation, activities from everything from – whether it’s in the shire, if you’re going surfing, or if you’re walking in the local national park, or whatever it might happen to be, those set of principles that states and territories can draw on in terms of getting some consistency across the country as we move into this next phase.”
Getting Australians back to work
Mr Morrison confirmed National Cabinet also agreed on COVID-19 Safe Workplace principals to expedite the process of getting people back into work.
“This is all about getting Australians back to work, and ensuring that when they go back to work that they and their families can feel safe in going back to work, and to ensure that there are important principles in place, there are protocols and procedures that, should a COVID case present in a
workplace, then there are rules that people need to follow,” he said.
“The Minister for Industrial Relations has been working closely with the COVID Commission, union representatives and others to ensure we get helpful tools in place.”
Commonwealth to intervene if aged care sector doesn’t obey advice to allow visitation
The National Cabinet stressed concerns about restrictions put in place in aged care facilities, stopping residents from having any visitors at all.
Mr Morrison said should there be no improvement in the sector, the Federal Government would step in for more active “enforcement” of the advice.
“Having people stuck in their rooms, not being able to be visited by their loved ones and carers and other support people, that’s not OK,” he said.
“We are not going to have these as secret places, where people can’t access them. They must.
“I am flagging very clearly at a federal level – that should we not see an improvement in this area, under the voluntary arrangements that we currently have in place, that the Commonwealth would be moving to require aged care facilities that wish to have an exemption to those national principles, those national arrangements.”
“They would need to seek authority to do that from the Commonwealth, and we would make such a decision in consultation with the relevant state and territory jurisdiction.”
Schools won’t have to abide by the 1.5m rule
Mr Morrison said the social distancing rules were “not appropriate and not required” in schools.
“The 1.5m distancing between students during classroom activities is not appropriate and not required – I can’t be more clear than that. he advice cannot be more clear than that,” he said.
“The 1.5m in classrooms and the four square metre rule is not a requirement of the expert medical advice in classrooms.”
Mr Morrison also expressed empathy for parents working from home and trying to look after their children who may be engaging in remote learning, emphasising the need to get kids back to school for that reason.
“I’m sure you’d know that if you’re a parent at home, trying to work from home and you’ve also got the kids at home, and they’re trying to learn, it’s not working too well for you and your productivity isn’t doing too well either,” he said.
“And so when we can get back to the point where we can have kids back at school, and we can get people back at work, then I think we’re gonna see that also lift our economy in ways that we very much need.”
An Anzac day unlike any other
Mr Morrison said despite the stay at home recommendations, ANZAC Day remained an opportunity to remember those fallen heroes throughout Australia’s history.
“It was a hundred years ago when Australians returned from the First World War, and on their first Anzac Day in Australia, it was in the middle of the Spanish flu and so it was something very similar to what we will face tomorrow, as we gather together without the parades, but we do so quietly and commemoratively, and I do think it will be a very special time,” he said.
“I think, for an Anzac Day this will be one to remember for a very long time.”
Australians are being encouraged to commemorate the day from their driveways tomorrow, with many services of their own to “light up the dawn”. The ABC will also telecast a Dawn Service from the Australian War Memorial from 5.30am.
Further coronavirus coverage on SoPerth.com.au:
- Perth Coronavirus Update: 1 Death & 2 New Cases Overnight
- Australia coronavirus update: Treasurer urges banks to step up and updates the nation on the economy
- International travel restrictions will not be looked at for another four months
- Human trials of potential COVID-19 vaccine begin in the UK today