Victoria has flagged an earlier than expected return to classrooms for school students as it relaxes some of its strictest coronavirus measures.
The possible return would be a reversal of Premier Daniel Andrews’s long-held view that Victorian students should learn from home for all of term two.
“We now believe that a gradual, staged return to face-to-face learning is safe, cautious and appropriate, given the testing we’ve done and the circumstances we face,” he said on Monday.
“We’re close to finalising a plan to see face-to-face learning return before the end of term two.”
Mr Andrews has come under intense pressure from the federal government for his stance on schools, which he maintained even as students in other states returned to classrooms and Australia’s coronavirus infection rate slowed.
However, he gave no details of the back-to-school plan as he announced some of Victoria’s strictest virus measures would ease from midnight on Tuesday.
- See a full list of Victoria’s changes here
Victorians will be allowed to have up to five family members or friends in their homes, while groups of up to 10 will be able to gather for sport and recreation – including “hiking, fishing, playing golf, going for a walk, kicking a footy”.
Victoria was the last state to announce how it would follow Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s “three step plan” to get 850,000 Australians back to work after the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is safe, this is cautious, this is appropriate. We’re not other states. We face our own unique challenges and we need to be appropriate to those,” Mr Andrews said.
“This is not over – I wish it were.”
Victoria reported seven more COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing its total to 1489.
NSW toll grows, premier fears virus ‘complacency’
Another resident of a coronavirus-plagued western Sydney aged-care home has died, after recently testing negative to the coronavirus.
Newmarch House operator Anglicare confirmed the death on Monday. The resident had previously tested positive for COVID-19, but had returned two negative tests before dying overnight.
The death follows a similar case, when NSW Health reported on Saturday that a woman at the home who had recovered from coronavirus had died of an unrelated illness on Friday.
The latest death comes as NSW recorded just one new case of COVID-19, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian saying she was “extremely worried” about the risk of complacency as the state begins easing restrictions.
- See a full list of NSW coronavirus regulations here
She urged people to adhere to social distancing, avoid crowds, and be responsible until the pandemic is over – which she noted could still be some time.
“Complacency is a big concern, it bothers me, it worries me,” she said on Monday.
“We have to assume every time we leave the house that we have the virus and that everybody else we come in contact with has the virus.”
From Friday, outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed in NSW, and up to five people, including children, will be able to visit households.
But the Premier pleaded with people to not let their guard down noting “complacency is our enemy”.
“The virus is as deadly today as it was last week,” she said.
People should still work from home where they can, with Ms Berejiklian recommending staggered work hours when people return to the office.
“We don’t want to see large crowds using public transport in peak hours,” she said.
Students returned for one day of face-to-face learning a week from Monday. Ms Berejiklian hopes full-time attendance in schools will resume by the end of May.
Queensland on the countdown
Just 18 Queenslanders are yet to recover from COVID-19 as the state counts down to more freedoms and students in classrooms.
The news from Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk came on Monday as parents dropped kids in kindy, prep, and years one, 11 and 12 off at the school gate.
There were no new cases of the virus diagnosed overnight and 137,009 tests have been done.
Officials will assess the statewide response to the partial reopening of classrooms on Friday, before the go-ahead is given for those in other year levels.
Restrictions across the wider community will ease again from Saturday, with up to five people allowed inside together and up to 10 outside.
Restaurants, libraries, pools and beauty salons can reopen, provided they adhere to restricted numbers and social distancing.
Open house inspections and auctions will also be allowed.
South Australia opens up
South Australian pubs and restaurants may be allowed to host more patrons from June as the state government works with the industry to ensure the viability of the sector.
With indoor dining to be allowed from June 8, Premier Stephen Marshall has suggested cafes, restaurants, pubs and clubs might be allowed to go beyond next stage limits.
When the second stage of virus restrictions are lifted in June, venues will be allowed to serve alcohol and can host up to 20 people at a time, provided social distancing provisions are maintained.
But the hotel industry believes that still might not cut it for many venues. Mr Marshall said on Monday a higher number was being considered.
In virus measures lifted on Monday, all country accommodation across SA can open, including caravan parks, hotels, motels and Airbnb services.
Alcohol-free outdoor dining at cafes and restaurants and the resumption of outdoor sports training will also be permitted, all with a 10-person limit.
Universities and TAFE colleges are free to resume face-to-face learning, public swimming pools, places of worship and libraries can reopen, and open house inspections and home auctions will be permitted.
Opening up out west
Western Australia will open cafes, restaurants, clubs, pubs, hotels and the casino to up to 20 patrons from next Monday.
Premier Mark McGowan said the state had no new COVID-19 cases on Monday. It has a total of 552 infections, with only seven active – results Mr McGowan said were “fantastic”.
“However, COVID-19 lurks in our community and can give rise at any moment,” he said. “So this, folks, is our new normal.”