Picnics, leisure shopping, hikes and boating are back on the agenda for some Australians but the federal government has warned the battle against coronavirus is “not yet won”.
Queensland and Western Australia have announced the easing of restrictions while residents of other states have been told to stay bunkered down.
From Saturday, residents of the Sunshine State will be allowed to travel up to 50km and have been given the go-ahead to have picnics, go boating, take a drive and visit newly re-opened popular hiking trails.
The Queensland border will remain closed.
In WA, where some of the toughest restrictions were introduced, small gatherings, picnics, fishing, boating, hiking and camping will now be allowed but people must comply with travel restrictions.
The two-person gathering limit will be lifted to allow ten people at weddings and non-work activities but the 10-person limit remains for funerals.
Queensland had three new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and Western Australia reported zero.
But despite states like Victoria also watching the infection trend fall to just three new cases on Sunday, restrictions are not expected to be eased until at least May 11.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said he had no intention of altering Victoria’s stay-at-home measures until the state of emergency ended in two weeks.
“I don’t know what transmission will look like this week or next week, but I think the state of emergency going to May 11 is a nice line-up with the national cabinet process for a real look at changing the restrictions,” Professor Sutton said.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard reiterated that residents should continue following social distancing measures and frequently wash their hands.
Queenslanders are doing the right thing and we can see the results. From next weekend, people will be able to travel within 50km of their homes for some recreational activities. #covid_19au pic.twitter.com/aOXSYpRB8A
— Annastacia Palaszczuk (@AnnastaciaMP) April 26, 2020
The battle is not over
As states prepare to begin easing restrictions, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt warned the battle against the coronavirus was “not yet won”.
After reporting just 16 new COVID-19 cases across the nation on Sunday, Mr Hunt said there had been 117 cases in the previous seven days, which compared favourably with 297 cases a week earlier.
“We have now had an average increase in case numbers of less than one per cent for 15 consecutive days,” Mr Hunt said.
“What we have seen is a sustained and consolidated and now extended flattening of the curve.”
As at Monday morning, Australia’s number of coronavirus cases was 6711 – of which 5539 had recovered.
The national death toll rose to 83 on Sunday with three new deaths reported in NSW, Tasmania and Victoria, but the rate of new infections continues to drop.
Elective surgery resumes
Australian hospitals will recommence elective surgeries the week after they were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
From Monday, category two and some category three elective surgeries will resume including IVF, dental work, screening programs, all child surgeries, joint replacements, eye procedures, endoscopies and colonoscopies.
Elective surgeries were postponed last month to free up beds and save personal protective equipment amid fears the coronavirus would overwhelm the hospital system.
Australian Medical Association President Tony Bartone welcomed the gradual return to elective surgery while lending his support to the COVIDSafe app.
“(Elective surgery) is an important additional component in ensuring that we deal with the necessary burden of disease now, and do not defer and roll out a significant hump of unexpected complications in managing those conditions as we reach the end of COVID-19,” he said.
Dr Bartone also urged Australians not to neglect their health concerns, following widespread reports people were avoiding seeing their doctor amid fears of contracting coronavirus.
“Heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, cancers do not take a holiday because of the circulating COVID-19 virus and the message to Australians is to continue their usual care and see a doctor for whatever symptoms are unusual,” he said.
“Don’t write it off. It might be your health that you are putting off.”
Victoria stands firm
Despite a steady decline in the number of new cases, Victoria will not follow other states in easing social distancing measures.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos confirmed the state recorded one death and three new coronavirus cases on Sunday, including a patient at a private psychiatric clinic at the centre of an outbreak.
A man in his 90s succumbed to the virus in hospital, bringing the state’s death toll to 17.
The state’s total number of COVID-19 cases sits at 1349, though 1265 people have recovered.
“They prove that our physical distancing measures are working but this is not a time to relax our strong approach,” Professor Sutton said.
“This disease can get away from you very quickly as we have seen in cities overseas.”
Prof said he has no intention of altering Victoria’s stay-at-home measures until at least May 11.
South Australia hospital numbers fall
South Australia recorded no new cases of coronavirus for the fourth consecutive day, as the state government urged people with other serious medical issues to not let the pandemic stop them seeking help.
The state confirmed a total of 438 cases, but only 23 remain active.
Four people are at Royal Adelaide Hospital, including two in intensive care.
Health Minister Stephen Wade said there were concerns about a significant reduction in emergency department presentations, ambulance call-outs and GP visits.