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A delicate balance

As COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are eased across the country, state and territory leaders are warning all Australians to remain cautious and keep their distance to avoid a second wave of disease. Source: AAP.
Image: AAP

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A delicate balance

As COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are eased across the country, state and territory leaders are warning all Australians to remain cautious and keep their distance to avoid a second wave of disease. Source: AAP.

Australia could experience a second wave of coronavirus infections if people continue to crowd into public places such as shopping centres. This is the message from Australia’s chief medical officer, who has put the onus on individuals, as restrictions ease. “That second wave that we’ve talked about, none of us want to get it, but it is not as much about the rules and regulations as it is about personal responsibility,” Brendan Murphy said recently.

Images have emerged of dense crowds of people flocking to shopping centres over the weekend. “If you’re going to a shopping centre to buy something, go and buy something, but don’t hang around the shopping centre for half an hour mingling for no purpose. Go home,” Prof Murphy said. “If you are arriving at a shopping centre and you find a crowd at an escalator not wanting to practise social distancing or crowding together, don’t go in. Leave.

“Come back later. If a lift opens and you find it is full of people, don’t get in. All of these things are really important.”

He said businesses should refuse to serve people with flu-like symptoms, and bosses should send workers home if they are sick.

Last Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison mapped out the national cabinet’s planned three-step easing of restrictions. Mr Morrison said the plan would get 850,000 people back to work in the coming months.

“You can stay under the doona forever and you’ll never face any danger. But we’ve got to get out from under the doona at some time,” he said on Friday.

“If not now, well, then when?”

States can pick and choose which elements of the stages they move on.

Queensland will be one of the first states to emerge from the strict lockdown measures that were implemented to curb the spread of coronavirus. Restrictions have already begun to ease with up to five people from the same home now allowed to visit another household.

Last Friday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced further relaxation to restrictions as Queensland marked its 100th day since its first infection. As of May 16, restaurants, cafes, clubs, shops and beauty salons will be able to reopen with 10 people permitted in each venue at one time.

Personal training sessions, libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms will also open with no more than 10 people at a time. Weddings with up to 10 people, and funerals of up to 20 inside or 30 outside will also be allowed. Bars and gaming facilities will remain closed in the first phase of a staged easing of the state’s lockdown.

Open home inspections and auctions, and recreational travel for day trips up to 150 kilometres from home will be allowed.

Under the public health direction, police officers can issue on-the-spot fines of $1334.50 for individuals and $6672.50 for corporations who break these laws.

Further restrictions will be eased next month with stages two and three subsequently rolled out. “All things going well, from June school holidays, Queenslanders will be able to drive and stay at accommodation for the first time since the pandemic hit,” the premier said.

“Then in July we are absolutely hoping… we will be able to open up travel for right across Queensland.”

Ms Palaszczuk said the measures would be evaluated at the end of every month, according to the latest health advice. She warned Queensland’s borders would remain closed while there was a risk of infection from other states.

Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles said the government did not expect a complete eradication of the virus. “As we ease restrictions, that does increase the likelihood that we would see outbreaks. It’s not been about necessarily getting to zero cases… It’s been about making sure we have the capacity to respond quickly and stomp out any outbreaks that might occur.”

Restrictions snapshot

Social distancing of 1.5 metres and strict hand hygiene remains in place.

Step 1 starts Saturday, May 16:

  • Gatherings of up to five people in homes and 10 in public spaces.
  • Dining in at restaurants, pubs, clubs and cafes for up to 10 patrons (no bars or gaming).
  • Recreational travel up to 150km from home for day trips.
  • Some beauty therapies and nail salons allowed up to 10 people, bookings essential.
  • Libraries, playground equipment, skate parks and outdoor gyms open with up to 10 people.
  • Weddings allowed 10 guests.
  • Funerals allowed 20 guests indoors and 30 outdoors.
  • Real estate open homes and auctions allowed up to 10 people.
  • Reopening public pools and lagoons to up to 10 people, more allowed with an approved plan.

Step 2 starts June 13:

  • Gatherings at homes up to 20 visitors.
  • Dining-in at restaurants, pubs, clubs, cafes up to 20 patrons, more allowed with an approved COVID-safe plan.
  • Holiday travel within your region.

Aiming for Step 3 in July with open travel right across the state and possible interstate travel.

The Federal Government’s path out of COVID-19:

  • Three-stage plan, with aim of ending most restrictions by July.
  • States and territories will progress through stages depending on local conditions.
  • National cabinet will meet today, May 15, and review settings every three weeks.
  • Widespread testing, contact tracing and ability to react quickly to stop outbreaks are vital.

Businesses urged to think differently

Businesses are being urged to stagger the times employees start and finish work ahead of a planned easing of COVID-19 restrictions over the coming months.

Last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison set an aspirational July target for the return of most employees to their workplaces.

Authorities have begun planning for the resumption of normal trading with the Commonwealth and state governments readying for the associated influx of people on public transport.

National Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said increased numbers on buses and trains would create challenges around maintaining social distancing.

“Social distancing is not possible when you are crowded,” he said.

“We are very keen, for those who are working from home, to continue working from home for the time being.

“But we are also keen for employers and employees to look at staggered start and finish times,” Prof Murphy said.

“I think we have to think about a very different way people may be starting at work, some starting at seven o’clock, some starting at 10 o’clock and people finishing at different times.

“We have to think differently about that so there is a lot of planning going on in the meantime.

“The message – go back to work. But if it works for you and your employer, continue to work from home.”

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