This is not the end of social restrictions, nor is it the beginning of the end.
But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
Many Australians are about to reclaim minor social freedoms as some states begin relaxing the coronavirus lockdown.
Western Australia was the first to move on Monday when it began its cautious relaxation of social distancing measures.
Groups of ten people are now allowed to gather to exercise, and for weddings and funerals.
Open home inspections have started up again, and the state is forcing its hospitality workers to complete a COVID-19 hygiene course as it prepares to re-open bars and eateries.
In the Northern Territory, outdoor weddings and funerals will be allowed from Friday, and restaurants and bars will open again on May 15, but with a two-hour time limit.
NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner says health officers will be checking on affected businesses and staff members to ensure they are complying with safety requirements.
“From noon tomorrow, restrictions will be adjusted on outdoor activities where physical distancing can be maintained. This includes playgrounds, pools, water parks and skate parks, exercising and personal training outdoors,” Mr Gunner said, as he listed activities that were now permitted.
“Non-contact outdoor sports such as golf, tennis, shooting and athletics. Outdoor gatherings, including religious gatherings, weddings and funerals. Visiting parks and camping, as I talked about earlier in the week. And fishing – you can go fishing with people not from your household, so long as physical distancing is maintained.
“You can fish with your mates again.”
From May 15 you can get a drink at the pub in the Northern Territory – but you must buy food with it as well
— Michael Koziol (@michaelkoziol) April 30, 2020
NSW, which has the nation’s highest number of cases, will modestly ease its social contact restrictions on Friday, and Queensland will follow on Saturday.
From Friday, NSW will allow two adults to visit another home. Retailers are also opening up their doors, allowing consumers to start up shopping and buying again.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has warned that vigilance needs to be exercised by all those involved.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has been more cautious in his approach, refusing to make any changes for now.
With his state home to the second highest number of cases, he won’t even contemplate lifting the state of emergency until May 11.
Tasmania has taken a similar view, and the ACT is also adamant it won’t imperil its low case count by changing anything yet.
What is not yet known, is if Australia can ward off a second wave of infections, and what might trigger a return to the restrictions that are now beginning to lift.
There is consensus that more cases will result as people are allowed to gather in slightly larger groups and move around more freely.
The Prime Minister insists there is a way to get the nation back to something resembling normal in a safe way.
Caution as eyes turn to Germany
But other jurisdictions are standing firm, as the world watches what’s happening in countries like Germany where there’s evidence of coronavirus cases starting to multiply again.
A fortnight ago, Germany began to reopen its shops and schools. At that stage it was pleased with its virus reproduction rate, which measures how many people an average person with coronavirus will infect.
But it has taken just 14 days for the rate to climb from 0.7, back to 1.0.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that if it gets back to 1.2 the nation’s health system will once more be at capacity.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has flagged a national cabinet meeting with state and territory leaders in mid-May, saying it will be crucial to lifting some social and economic clamps that have impeded the nation.
He says there will be outbreaks as restrictions ease, but “that is what living with the virus will be like”.
But he also says restrictions can be eased as large-scale surveillance testing can catch sleeper cases and detect any spread that might indicate a second wave has begun.
He wants every Australian to download the government’s coronavirus tracing app, so the contacts of infected people can be immediately identified.
His third safeguard is to be satisfied that the nation has a high capacity of ‘respond and contain’ to outbreaks as they arise.
Chief Health Officer Brendan Murphy has said Australia must increase its testing four-fold, to 40,000 to 50,000 tests a day, to be sure the nation has the upper hand.
On Thursday, federal Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd reassured Australians the nation wouldn’t “be caught out all of a sudden” if the virus begins to spread again.
“If things do start to rise, we’ll see that happening over a period of time and appropriate measures will be recommended and taken when that happens.”
Professor Murphy has said Australia’s infection rate is close to one, with the goal to keep it below one.
More than 6746 cases have been recorded in Australia, but fewer than 1100 are still active. The national death toll stands at 91.