Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy has dashed hopes of Australians hoping to head overseas soon, saying there’s “no clear road map” for reopening borders.
International travel would be one of the last measures to be lifted amid the global coronavirus pandemic, Professor Murphy told a Senator committee inquiring into the coronavirus crisis on Wednesday.
“I cannot see border measures materially changing for some time and that presents a huge problem for the nation,” he said.
Professor Murphy said international borders were integral to stopping the spread of virus, while state borders were less vital.
“Two-thirds of our cases have been overseas-acquired and recent analysis in academic literature has shown that those countries that have done the best have introduced border measures,” Dr Murphy said.
“There is no clear road map out of this. We have a strategy of maintaining strong suppression, potentially elimination in some parts of country while we relax restriction.
“But then we will have to reassess every few months to see what’s happening with vaccines, treatments.”
Professor Murphy said he had “no vision at the moment” of a time when strong border measures would be unnecessary.
“The world situation will evolve over many months,” he said.
Professor Murphy also said he would be “very surprised” if the world’s coronavirus case numbers failed to eventually reach 20 million.
Australia has nearly 7000 cases of COVID-19, with several states recording more on Wednesday. Some were confirmed infections moving from one state to another as patients returned home.
Former Ruby Princess passenger dies
An 81-year-old woman who travelled on the coronavirus-plagued Ruby Princess cruise ship has died in NSW, taking the state’s toll to 47 and Australia’s to 98.
The woman died on Tuesday, NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said on Wednesday, having disembarked the Ruby Princess in Sydney on March 19.
It’s the first COVID-19 death reported in Australia since May 5.
“It’s upsetting to know people are still perishing, dying from this horrible virus and we can’t imagine what families are going through,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
NSW had six new COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday from 8100 tests, including three that health authorities fear were infected in the community.
Two new cases were contacts of those connected to the Newmarch House aged care cluster, where 16 residents have died and 71 people have caught the virus.
NSW has had 3059 COVID-19 cases in all, with seven in intensive care.
“We have to accept a manageable number of cases will allow us to have people keep their jobs, we don’t want to see more people go into distress,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“In NSW, we feel quite armed with options before us because we have done well with a population of our size and with the number of cases.”
NSW parliament resumed on Tuesday with the state government introducing bills proposing to amend about 40 Acts, following the passage of emergency legislation in March.
But Ms Berejiklian said pubs would not yet open.
“Obviously, sitting down and having a meal and exercising social distancing is different to people having a drink or otherwise at a pub,” she said.
Free beer? Head to Queensland
It’s a different story in Queensland, where some pubs will celebrate the return of patrons with free beer on Saturday.
The state’s XXXX Brewery has donated 3000 litres of beer to regional venues hard hit by drought and the COVID-19 lockdown.
From Saturday, outback pubs will be able to welcome 20 patrons, while other Queensland venues can welcome 10.
It follows moves to re-open the state’s parks, playgrounds and barbecues.
The state had one new COVID-19 case to report on Wednesday – in a person diagnosed interstate but added to its tally when they returned home.