State premiers have dashed the hopes of millions of Australians, warning there will be no hasty changes to coronavirus restrictions – no matter what is decided at Friday’s National Cabinet meeting.
“I have no announcements to make on restrictions today … and if I have anything to say after National Cabinet, then I will be before you saying that then,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said on Thursday.
“We’ve come a long way and we can’t give that all back. We just can’t. It is deeply frustrating, I know that, but it is working.”
Mr Andrews said all of Victoria’s restrictions would remain until at least May 11, when a state of emergency ends.
“Monday will present us with an opportunity … to update you on test results and on the restrictions that will apply for May,” he said.
In Sydney, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was similarly firm.
“I doubt that NSW will be in a position to implement anything before Mother’s Day,” she said.
“It’s important for each state to work within those national guidelines and do what they think is within their state’s interests.”
She said NSW had already eased some restrictions during May, and needed time to observe the cumulative effects.
“We don’t want to have a spike in cases that exceeds what we can manage,” she said.
“I suspect by the end of June, life will feel much more normal than it does now and even during May, life will feel much more normal.”
Australia recorded just 21 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday. Fourteen of those were in Victoria, 13 of them linked to a worsening outbreak at a meat works in Melbourne’s west.
NSW had three new cases – two in staff at its biggest cluster, the Newmarch House aged-care home – while Queensland reported two cases and Tasmania and South Australia had just one.
The nation’s leaders are to meet again on Friday, to decide on a timeframe for relaxing virus control measures across the country. Last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison flagged a post-coronavirus return to some activities – but warned other restrictions would be slower to ease.
The federal government has set July as a deadline for getting a million Australians back to work.
But Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein was also cautious about relaxing restrictions.
“Tomorrow, after National Cabinet I’ll be outlining Tasmania’s way forward, and the road map that we’ll be taking,” he said on Thursday.
Tasmania has barred visits to aged-care homes until at least May 15.
But the news was more positive for Queenslanders, with Health Minister Steven Miles announcing that families of up to five will be able to visit other families of a similar number from Sunday.
“It’s about two households coming together, and we don’t think that will increase risk,” he said.
“We can do that in Queensland because of the great job everyone’s been doing.”
In Western Australia, Health Minister Roger Cook announced an eighth day with no new coronavirus cases, but maintained state borders would remain shut.
“This government won’t compromise on the health and safety of its citizens,” he said.
“If we start to be casual and drop our guard, we risk undoing all of the great work that we have achieved as a community.”
The Northern Territory has already relaxed restrictions on parks, golf, fishing and swimming. Restaurants and bars are to reopen on May 15, followed later by other entertainment venues.
In South Australia, restrictions on funeral attendance and travel to regional areas are likely to be lifted soon. Playgrounds and skate parks have already reopened.
Meat works cluster
The outbreak at Cedar Meats, in Melbourne’s west, had grown to 62 COVID-19 infections by Thursday morning, and remains Victoria’s worst cluster.
Mr Andrews said seven of the 13 new abattoir cases were in employees, the remainder were close contacts of workers.
The state government has been criticised for a tardy response to the outbreak, after the first positive test in a worker on April 2.
“I am very proud of the public health team in the response that they have provided to every positive case,” Mr Andrews said.
“This outbreak was singled out by Brendan Murphy, the chief medical officer of the Commonwealth, at National Cabinet as a model example of how to deal with an outbreak.”
Newmarch House appoints adviser
Two more staff at the coronavirus-hit Newmarch House have tested positive for COVID-19, with the operator of the western Sydney aged-care home warned it could lose its approved aged-care provider status.
Home operator Anglicare said on Thursday it would appoint an external adviser to help meet its regulatory obligations amid the devastating coronavirus toll.
It comes after the commission wrote to Anglicare on Wednesday, threatening to revoke its licence, arguing there was “an immediate and severe risk to the health, safety and wellbeing of care recipients” at Newmarch House.
Sixteen residents have so far died from the coronavirus at the Caddens facility. Dozens more residents and staff are infected.