Nation Opens up Gradually as Virus Cases Ease

By AAP
September 15, 2020 Updated: September 16, 2020

Pockets of Australia have begun to open up as COVID-19 case numbers drop and the nation had its first fatality-free day since mid-July.

The hardest-hit state of Victoria will see eased restrictions outside Melbourne from midnight on Sept. 16, with outdoor gathering limits increased to groups of 10 and hospitality and entertainment allowed.

People in regional Victoria will also be able to leave their homes without restriction and all shops can re-open.

Premier Daniel Andrews asked Melburnians to see it as an encouraging step that further success can be achieved, despite there being no immediate changes to Melbourne’s lockdown rules.

Melbourne will move to its next step of reopening on Sept. 28 if the 14-day average falls to 30-50.

It stands at 52.9.

The city took its first tentative steps out of lockdown on Sept. 14, with those living alone or single parents allowed to have one visitor, outdoor exercise extended to two hours and the curfew start time put back an hour to 9 p.m.

Overnight, South Australia lifted its COVID-19 border restrictions with the ACT, but quarantine measures for people from NSW will remain for the foreseeable future.

Travellers flying in from Canberra will no longer need to quarantine for 14 days, but will not be allowed to arrive by road.

They will still need to seek pre-approval online and will be asked to declare they have not been in NSW or Victoria in the previous 14 days.

SA’s border changes mean that people can now travel unrestricted from the ACT, the Northern Territory, Tasmania, Queensland and Western Australia.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said it was also important on a national level as a significant step towards restarting domestic aviation.

Barr said he expected considerable demand for flights from Canberra to Adelaide.

SA and the ACT reported no new virus cases on Sept. 15 and both have no active infections.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is keen for the country to open up as quickly as possible to stem job losses and help the economy climb out of recession.

He is talking up the government’s plan to fire up the gas industry in a bid to generate manufacturing jobs and push down household power prices.

He will be backed in on Sept. 16 by business adviser Andrew Liveris, who will outline how Australian manufacturing can be transformed in a National Press Club speech in Canberra.

However, there are fears the government’s plans to wind back the level of the JobKeeper and JobSeeker support programs could have dire impacts, especially ahead of Christmas.

NSW recorded seven new cases on Sept. 15, including two linked to known clusters, three overseas travellers and a resident returning from Victoria.

By Paul Osborne