Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has given the clearest indication yet of what’s required to pull Australia out of coronavirus lockdown and begin shifting the needle back towards some semblance of life normality.
Fronting media this afternoon, Hunt praised the efforts of all Australians across the Easter Weekend, which had previously been touted as a pivotal period in the nation’s battle to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the community.
Initial Federal Government data suggests that overall movement in Australia was down to just 13% across the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of the long weekend, with data on Easter Sunday movement still to come.
Hunt stated that “Australians have done what we had hoped – and more. They have stayed at home. They have self-isolated. They have responded with the best sense of Australia imaginable.”
That level of self-isolation has seen the daily national growth rate of new coronavirus cases drop to below 2%. That number is down from the mid-March peak of around 25%.
Hunt stated that while “that doesn’t mean we’re out of our challenge,” and that “there is still growth and there could, at any time, be outbreaks and spikes,” it was nonetheless “a cause for real hope and real aspiration.”
The Health Minister then addressed the idea of potentially phasing out lockdown measures in the country, and while it was “too soon to make changes” to existing social distancing recommendations and social movement restrictions, the Government is in the process of planning the “road out” of all this.
Getting Australia out of coronavirus lockdown measures will, according to Hunt, require “three elements.”
“One is clear indication that we are suppressing the case numbers in Australia – it could be case numbers, the re-transmission rate, that’s all being developed into an assessment protocol,” Hunt stated.
The second, according to the Minister, involved “ensuring we have rapid response capability – testing, tracing.” And then the third and final element, “once those things are achieved,” involves planning the “gradual” removal of social restrictions.
The current Federal Government approach to battling the coronavirus outbreak involves containing the number of known diagnosed cases, while increasing the capacity of the health care system to respond to any future spikes.
While that is something of a mishmash of various other strategies being employed around the world, Hunt stated that the end goal in Australia is the “effective eradication” of the virus here, although he offered the caveat that “we can never guarantee that absolutely.”
There remains no set timeframe for any of this at this stage, and it will likely be a good handful of months before any of the current restrictions are eased.Image: AAP