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Coronavirus infection curve flattens to point authorities consider relaxing restrictions by May 1

Australia could see a staggered easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions in a bid to save small businesses from collapse and revive the economy.  

Tough measures imposed by the federal and state governments have flattened the COVID-19 curve to the point where state leaders are discussing relaxing shutdown measures as early as May 1. 

Scott Morrison warned government measures propping up affected businesses ‘cannot go on forever’ while warning Australians to stay home over Easter.

The rate of new infections of COVID-19 has been plunging thanks to strict lockdown measures 

Australian businesses have been suffering through the lockdown with cafes, pubs, and gyms particularly hard-hit

Australian businesses have been suffering through the lockdown with cafes, pubs, and gyms particularly hard-hit 

In NSW, Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Deputy Premier John Barilaro, and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet are considering gradually lifting restrictions on some businesses, including cafes and restaurants.  

Easing of restrictions is also being considered for gyms and small church groups, though social distancing guidelines would still need to be followed.  

Ms Berejiklian on Tuesday remained steadfast in her message social distancing was a ‘way of life’ for people in NSW.

‘No matter what restrictions there are in the future, no matter what restrictions are potentially eased in the future, until a vaccine is found, social distancing is a way of life now,’ she said.    

But the Premier and her state government are now understood to be focusing on how and when to lift restrictions for businesses, rather than tightening them further, The Daily Telegraph reported. 

Police have been empowered to fine people for not following social distancing guidelines

Police have been empowered to fine people for not following social distancing guidelines 

Australians COVID-19 cases state-by-state as of April 7 2020

Australians COVID-19 cases state-by-state as of April 7 2020 

The government is reviewing lockdowns month-by-month, and any restrictions that were eased could be ramped up again, depending on how the infection rate responded. 

The Federal Government meanwhile has given no indication it is looking at any restrictions being lifted in the near future and has repeated warnings they would last for at least six months. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Tuesday the country is ‘flattening the curve’ and the number of new coronavirus cases is decreasing, but urged Australians to be vigilant over the Easter break and beyond.   

Playground equipment across the country has been taped off amid concerns of spreading coronavirus

Playground equipment across the country has been taped off amid concerns of spreading coronavirus 

The news we’ve all been waiting for: Australia flattens the curve after a week of lockdown but Scott Morrison warns Australians to stay home this Easter or the measures will all be for nothing

Scott Morrison has told Australians to stay at home this Easter to save lives even though the country is ‘flattening the curve’ and the number of new coronavirus cases is decreasing every day.

‘This Easter weekend will be incredibly important. Stay at home,’ the Prime Minister said.

Government data presented today showed the number of new daily cases spiked at 460 on 28 March and has been decreasing since. On 6 April there were 104 new cases.

Scott Morrison (right today at a press conference) has told Australians to stay at home this Easter to save lives

Scott Morrison (right today at a press conference) has told Australians to stay at home this Easter to save lives

Data presented today shows how Australia's new coronavirus cases have been decreasing since 28 March

Data presented today shows how Australia’s new coronavirus cases have been decreasing since 28 March

But Mr Morrison warned that people who flout social distancing rules could cause the rate of increase to pick up once more.

‘Failure to stay at home this weekend would completely undo everything we have achieved so far together – and potentially worse,’ he said. 

One of the scientists who worked on new modelling released today suggested Australia has passed the peak of the infection rate but faces an ‘explosive resurgence’ if restrictions are relaxed.

Professor James McCaw of Melbourne University’s Doherty Institute warned: ‘We expect to see a further decline in cases… [but if we] went back to normal we would see a rapid and explosive resurgence in epidemic activity.’ 

What does the coronavirus modelling show? 

If no measures are taken 

The theoretical modelling finds an uncontrolled COVID-19 pandemic scenario would overwhelm our health system for many weeks. 89 per cent of people would catch the virus, with 38 per cent requiring some medical care.

ICUs would be stretched well beyond capacity for a prolonged period. Only 15 per cent of people requiring ICU beds would be able to access one, even with the expanded ICU capacity in the model.

This graph shows three scenarios based on no restrictions (grey), quarantine (light blue) and social distancing (dark blue)

This graph shows three scenarios based on no restrictions (grey), quarantine (light blue) and social distancing (dark blue)

With quarantine and isolation 

Quarantine and isolation would reduce the proportion of people who would catch the virus to 68 per cent, and those needing medical care to 29 per cent. Only an estimated 30 per cent of people requiring ICU beds would be able to access them.

With social distancing restrictions 

If social distancing measures reduces transmission by 25 per cent, the proportion of people infected would be 38 per cent with 16 per cent requiring some medical care.

Eighty per cent of people who need ICU beds could access them. 

With a 33 per cent reduction in transmission due to social distancing, the proportion of people infected is 12 per cent and only five per cent require some medical care.

In that scenario, everyone who needs an ICU bed over the course of the pandemic could access one.

The modelling finds our ICUs will cope if we continue to have effective social distancing, increase our health system capacity, and isolate people with the virus and their close contacts.

This table shows the proportion of each age group who require hospitalisation if they are infected with the disease

This table shows the proportion of each age group who require hospitalisation if they are infected with the disease

The Prime Minister (pictured today) warned that people who flout social distancing rules could cause the rate of increase to pick up once more

The Prime Minister (pictured today) warned that people who flout social distancing rules could cause the rate of increase to pick up once more

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a coronavirus press conference at Parliament House in Canberra on April 7

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a coronavirus press conference at Parliament House in Canberra on April 7

Today the government released the Institute’s modelling based on international data, showing how restrictions reduce the spread of the virus.

If no action were taken, 89 per cent of Australians might catch the virus and only 15 per cent of people requiring ICU beds would get one, causing mass deaths. 

That is a ‘horrendous scenario’ which is highly unlikely, Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said. 

With social distancing measures and strict quarantine of the sick, the proportion of people infected is 12 per cent and only five per cent require some medical care, meaning the health system can cope. 

On Tuesday, the nation experienced its most deadly day yet in the fight against coronavirus, as seven people succumbed to the disease by 5.30pm.

The death toll rose to 48 with the announcement that two people in their 70s – one an international traveller who arrived on the Arcadia cruise ship, and the other a local woman – had died in hospital overnight.

A 14th passenger from the ill-fated Ruby Princess cruise ship also died on Tuesday.

The Prime Minister said the country must ‘hold the course’ because it’s too early to tell if restrictions are causing the number of cases to drop fast enough.

Australia's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy shows how Australia's new cases have been decreasing since 27 March

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy shows how Australia’s new cases have been decreasing since 27 March

He revealed that Australia’s less populated states will release social distancing restrictions before the more populous states which have more cases.

‘The path out of this is to get back so some sort of normality,’ he said. 

In Western Australia, an additional 10 new cases were diagnosed overnight, bringing the total known infections to 470. Of the new cases, nine are in metro areas while one is regional.

Premier Mark McGowan said people can’t be complacent, despite the overall infection rate lowering.

‘This is a marathon, not a sprint,’ Mr McGowan said.

‘Even though the numbers in WA are promising … we have no reason whatsoever to get complacent now.’

No timeframe was given for when restrictions could be eased but Mr Morrison said his decision would take into account their economic impact and the capacity for the government to provide support.

He warned that the government’s extraordinary policies such as the JobKeeper plan to pay six million workers’ wages were ‘finite’ and could not last more than six months.

‘That will revert, that cannot go on,’ he said. 

A drive-through testing clinic in Bondi in operation on Tuesday 7 April

A drive-through testing clinic in Bondi in operation on Tuesday 7 April

Medical personnel carry equipment to the Bondi Beach drive-through testing centre on Tuesday 7 April

Medical personnel carry equipment to the Bondi Beach drive-through testing centre on Tuesday 7 April

Professor Murphy said future modelling would based on actual cases in Australia and could be released in ‘weeks’ to help the government to decide when to release restrictions.

‘We are not in any way out of trouble at the moment but we are in a relatively strong position to keep the pressure on,’ he said. 

The Prime Minister also revealed the national cabinet has agreed a commercial tenancies code of practice which will be enforced by state and territory governments.

It stipulates that landlords must provide rent relief, in the form of waivers and deferrals, to tenants who are using the JobKeeper scheme.

The amount of the rent reduction must be proportional to the revenue lost by the tenant due to COVID-19. At least half of the reduction must be a waiver not a deferral.

It comes after Gladys Berejiklian this morning warned that social distancing is ‘a way of life’ until a coronavirus vaccine is found.

New South Wales recorded 49 new cases on Monday, down from 57 new cases on Sunday

New South Wales recorded 49 new cases on Monday, down from 57 new cases on Sunday

The New South Wales Premier said that even when restrictions are eased, residents will have to stay 1.5 metres apart. 

‘The reality is that until we find a vaccine, we all have to live with this virus,’ she said. 

‘And no matter what restrictions there are in the future, no matter what restrictions are potentially eased in the future, until a vaccine is found, social distancing is a way of life now. That is the new normal.’ 

New South Wales recorded 49 new cases on Monday, down from 57 new cases on Sunday. 

There were 13 new cases in Queensland overnight, continuing the downward trend. 

CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 5,997

New South Wales: 2,734

Victoria: 1,212

Queensland: 943

Western Australia: 470

South Australia: 415

Australian Capital Territory: 97

Tasmania: 98

Northern Territory: 28

TOTAL CASES:  5,997

RECOVERED: 2,547 

DEAD: 49

Health officials said the slowdown in the rate of new cases each day shows the restrictions on daily life and social distancing measures have successfully flattened the curve.

But they are cautious about the rate spiking again.

Officials are urging Australians to maintain social distancing measures despite the rate of coronavirus cases falling.

Deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd says Australians can’t let their guard down because community transmissions are occurring.

‘I know it’s really challenging for many people with the self-isolation that’s occurring, with the restriction of activities, but we are doing this to help each other, help ourselves and save lives by stopping the spread,’ he told Nine on Tuesday.

A scaled back parliament will meet on Wednesday to pass the government’s $130 billion wage subsidy plan, which will see eligible employees receive a $1500 fortnightly payment.

Younger people in particular have been warned about being complacent, given that people aged in their 30s are among the worst-affected patients.

Scott Morrison also took the opportunity to wish British Prime Minister Boris Johnson a speedy recovery after he was admitted to intensive care after contracting the disease.  

New South Wales Labor leader Jodi McKay has accused Premier Gladys Berejiklian of trying to ‘cover up’ the Ruby Princess debacle. 

She said a police investigation was not enough and royal commission was needed to find out why 2,700 passengers were allowed off the ship without proper health checks on 19 March.

Since that day there have been over 600 coronavirus infections linked to the ship and 13 deaths. 

‘Not only is this one of the greatest public health failures in New South Wales, but it is unfortunately being followed by a cover-up,’ Ms McKay said on Tuesday.

New South Wales Labor leader Jodi McKay (pictured) has accused Premier Gladys Berejiklian's government of trying to 'cover up' the Ruby Princess debacle

New South Wales Labor leader Jodi McKay (pictured) has accused Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s government of trying to ‘cover up’ the Ruby Princess debacle

On Sunday, NSW Police announced it would investigate whether national bio-security laws and state laws were broken.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said the investigation would centre on ‘discrepancies’ regarding information provided by Carnival about sick patients.

When questioned by reporters today, he did not rule out the possibility of manslaughter charges if evidence was found that ship staff hid or downplayed coronavirus infections or if the decision to allow passengers off was negligent. 

A specialist team of officers was preparing to board the ship to seize documents and digital evidence on Tuesday. 

Ms McKay welcomed the police probe but said the NSW government needs to launch a more thorough inquiry.  

She said: ‘How can the community trust that this will not happen again, unless there is a transparent, independent inquiry with the powers of a royal commission? 

‘My message today to the Premier is please stop the cover-up.’

Attorney-General Christian Porter on Monday backed the NSW Police investigation.

NSW Police Rescue officers watch as the Ruby Princess, with crew only onboard, docks at Port Kembla, Wollongong on Friday

NSW Police Rescue officers watch as the Ruby Princess, with crew only onboard, docks at Port Kembla, Wollongong on Friday

‘Of course, there’s a whole range of offences, including civil fraud, that may have been possibly committed and that’s what the investigation is about,’ he told ABC Radio.

‘If those offences can be substantiated by evidence then they would be very, very serious indeed.’

The Ruby Princess docked at Port Kembla near Wollongong south of Sydney on Monday morning with 1,040 crew on board.

Commissioner Fuller says this will make it easier for the 200 crew members showing coronavirus symptoms to get medical treatment.

‘The reason we need to dock it is because of the regular supplies that need to go on the ship,’ he told reporters on Monday.

‘Taking sick crew off at sea is a complex and dangerous task.’

NSW Health recently boarded the Ruby Princess with the help of Aspen Medical to assess the health of the crew.

Aspen Medical executive chairman Glenn Keys said the crew don’t need to leave the ship for treatment.

‘In our view, they can be treated on board,’ he told ABC Radio.

‘The ship’s been good in spreading the crew out to make sure there is enough room. They’ve got fresh air and the treatment they need.’

Ruby Princess owner Carnival Australia says the company is assisting the police investigation.

‘In addition to willingly participating in the investigation, Carnival Australia will vigorously respond to any allegations of which there must now be full disclosure and the basis for them,’ a spokesman said in a statement.

Timeline of Ruby Princess fiasco

March 18: The Ruby Princess issues an urgent mayday call for an ambulance for two of its passengers presenting with coronavirus-like symptoms 24 hours before the ship is allowed to dock in Sydney. 

March 19: The Ruby Princess arrives in Sydney Harbour. More than 2,700 guests are allowed to disembark without adequate health checks. 

March 25: Australian Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram says New South Wales Health is responsible for letting coronavirus patients disembark the ship.

March 29: Several crew members are evacuated and taken to hospital after being diagnosed with coronavirus.

April 2: A 66-year-old crew member is taken off the Ruby Princess for medical treatment. More than 200 crew members are sick and in self-isolation.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian defends the actions of NSW Health and the Australian Border Force and points the finger at the Ruby Princess. She claims staff onboard may have misled NSW Health about the extent of illnesses in passengers.

April 3: Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton alleges Ruby Princess’ operators weren’t transparent about the health of crew: ‘It was ‘clear that some of the companies have been lying about the health of passengers and crew on board’.

April 4: Leaked emails show NSW Health knew of the coronavirus risk on board the Ruby Princess before allowing its thousands of passengers to disembark. 

April 5: A criminal investigation is launched into how passengers were able to disembark without health checks  

 

 

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