Restrictions to Remain in Place at Least 4 Weeks: Australian PM

April 16, 2020 Updated: April 16, 2020

Australia’s CCP virus restrictions will remain in place for at least four weeks until three criteria are met, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said after a meeting with National Cabinet the morning of April 16.

The three criteria—wider testing, contact tracing with an app, and plans for local lockdowns to combat outbreaks—will need to be in place before restrictions related to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, begin to ease.

“In about a month from now there will be changes to the baseline restrictions that we put in place a few weeks ago,” Morrison said. “When we have in place the broader testing regime surveillance, the automated contract regime in place, and we have scaled out our capacity to respond to outbreaks—that is what we are looking to do in the next four weeks.”

But the prime minister said social distancing measures would remain in place for the foreseeable future while a vaccine is unavailable.

“When it comes to the specific economic restrictions that have been put in place, after the next month then there will be the opportunity to review that and potentially make some changes,” he said.

Some Australian states and territories who have gone beyond the baseline restrictions could relax some of their tighter restrictions, Morrison said. State and federal governments would also look at restarting high-value, low-risk economic activity in mid-May if those goals can be met.

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said Australia must hold the course while the health system was readied for the worst of the disease.

“Our numbers are looking very encouraging at the moment,” Murphy said. “We can’t afford to do relaxation until we have a public health system which is so finely tuned that it can detect and respond to any outbreak,” Murphy said.

Despite a modest rise of 0.1 percent in Australia’s unemployment rate, Morrison warned Australians to prepare for some “very sobering” economic news at the other end of the pandemic.

“To make sure we can achieve growth that will be necessary for our economy to get people back into work, economy back on track, it will be a different world on the other side of the virus and there will be many challenges.”

Morrison added that Australia was now in the “suppression phase” of the response, which will last for “some time.”

“Restrictions will be reviewed regularly and planning for the medium to long-term has begun. Over the following months further enhancements of the public health response capability will be implemented to allow future considerations of some relaxation of distancing measures,” Morrison said.

Morrison said that Australia was not in an “eradication mode nor are we in the other mode where we would just see some sort of herd immunity approach, these are not the approaches we are following in Australia.”

“We are not at the Sweden end, nor are we the New Zealand end when it comes to how we’re approaching things.”

As of April 16, there are 6,468 cases of the CCP virus and 63 deaths in Australia. More than half have recovered.

“We want to send the very clear message that we are well ahead of where we thought we might be at this point,” Morrison said.

National cabinet will meet again on April 21 to discuss easing restrictions on elective surgeries.

Parliament is not scheduled to resume until August, but Morrison said he would be talking to Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese about having a “trial week” of Parliament in May.

The Australian Associated Press contributed to this report.