Under potential level four restrictions, takeaway services such as UberEats could stop – which didn’t even happen in China (stock image)
- Australia could be out of COVID-19 lockdown within weeks experts predict
- But scientists warned citizens must abide by social distancing and stay home
- China and South Korea brought in strict isolation rules and are now improving
- The curve has flattened on their coronavirus rates, with fewer being infected
- Some countries, including the USA, Italy and the UK are still suffering badly
- They only introduced ‘phased and gradual’ restrictions, experts warned
- If Australia is to have a chance, officials must bring in ‘short, sharp’ restrictions
Australians could be free from draconian coronavirus restrictions in just six weeks if the whole nation goes into a stricter lockdown and citizens commit to serious social distancing, experts say.
The country has suffered far fewer deaths than most other G20 nations, and could have millions of people back in their workplaces by mid-May.
A panel of the country’s foremost biosecurity and health experts have put pressure on the government to introduce stricter measures which could bring an end to the lockdown.
The number of COVID-19 cases, currently at 5,350, will only continue rising if people don’t stay in their homes with far stricter restrictions, the scientists warned.
Currently, laws state people should only go outside for essential reasons, such as grocery shopping, exercise and medical appointments – with schools and takeaway still open.
If stricter rules were brought in, schools would likely be shutdown, as would all takeaways, with only essential stores open – such as supermarkets and pharmacies.
Early childhood educator Josephine wipes down tables and bench tops with disinfectant at the Robertson Street Kindy Childcare Centre in Helensburgh, south of Sydney
As of Friday night, there were 5,350 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia, with 28 deaths related to the disease
WHAT AUSTRALIA NEEDS TO DO TO END THE COVID-19 LOCKDOWN
Scientists at the University of New South Wales said that until a vaccine is available, we have four measures to combat the outbreak.
– Identifying every case rapidly with extensive testing, and isolating cases
– Tracking and quarantine of contacts
– Travel restrictions
– Social distancing (including lockdown) to reduce contact (and therefore spread of infection) between people
The government also needs to ramp up its testing for coronavirus to allow people back on the streets, reopening bars and restaurants and kick-starting the economy, the experts said.
It comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison repeatedly warned that COVID-19 restrictions are likely to be in place for at least six months.
Making the case for a short and sharp lockdown, biosecurity expert Professor Raina Macintyre said the longer Australia continues a ‘phased and gradual’ increase in restrictions, the longer the outbreak will continue.
‘The argument that such measures need to be long-term (6-12 months) is incorrect,’ she wrote in a report along with other experts from the University of New South Wales.
‘China has demonstrated the feasibility of a short lockdown followed by phased lifting of restrictions.
‘A short, sharp lockdown of four to eight weeks will improve control of the epidemic in Australia, reduce case numbers more rapidly and bring us to a more manageable baseline from which phased lifting of restrictions and economic recovery can occur.
A police officer in Sydney checks that a returned traveller is self-isolating at home on April 3 (pictured) after some people tried to sneak out
Crowds like the ones seen at Bondi Beach on March 21 (pictured) will only add to the time that Australia has to stay in lockdown, scientists warned
If locals use proper social distancing, like these walkers in south Melbourne on Friday (pictured), the lockdown could be over within just six weeks
‘If we fail to do this, we face continued epidemic growth, potential failure of the health system, and a far longer road to recovery.’
The doctors explained that only two countries have managed to flatten the curve – meaning the rate of infection dropped significantly – South Korea and China.
By comparison, countries with a ‘slow trickle’ of restrictions have suffered greatly, such as Italy, the UK and the US.
‘The only two countries to achieve flattening of the curve to date are South Korea and China,’ the report said.
‘We have seen failures arise from the staggered, slow trickle and localized measures taken in Italy, the UK and US.’
An Australian doctor working in Singapore, Professor Dale Fisher, said the country had successfully contained COVID-19 because everyone sent to isolation had stayed in a dormitory or hotel, and had not been allowed home.
A deserted Flinders Street train station on March 30 in Melbourne (pictured), as Victoria prepares for the next stage of coronavirus restrictions
But sunbathers such as these people at Mackenzies Bay on March 31 (pictured) will not help Australia end its lockdown, as people should be staying home
WHAT ‘STAGE FOUR’ RESTRICTIONS LOOK LIKE?
Based on goings on around the world, stage four restrictions could mean a host of new rules.
Here are some examples of what it could look like:
– Takeaways to be shut down
– All schools to be closed
– People can only make physical contact with those they live with
– No pre-cooked food can be delivered
– Convenience stores must have a ‘one-in-one-out’ policy
– All cafes and playgrounds closed
– An outright ban on birthday parties and weddings
By comparison, several in Australia who were meant to be in isolation have broken the rules.
This includes two people who were fined in NSW this week for leaving their homes, despite only recently arriving back in Australia.
Under new rules aimed at stopping the spread of the deadly respiratory virus, arrivals in Australia have to self-isolate for 14 days.
A 28-year-old man was fined in Gundagai on April 1, after police went to his home to ensure he was self-quarantining after arriving from New Zealand on March 20.
He was not at his home when police arrived and he was later found driving down the road.
Expert modelling of the virus by scientists shows the greatest impact on its spread is caused the ‘the most severe of social distancing measures’.
This includes lockdown, as well as enhanced testing and quarantine.
Police in Sydney’s Double Bay on Thursday asked a young boy and his grandparents (pictured) to go home as they ramped up efforts to contain the spread of the virus
China, where the outbreak began, went into punishingly strict lockdown measures earlier this year to combat its spread.
Comment: What, we want to go down that road?
Australia’s lockdown could go on for longer if the country continues its ‘slow trickle’ approach to restrictions, the report warned.
It was written by Professor MacIntyre, as well as Professor Louisa Jorm, director of the Centre for Big Data Research in Health at UNSW, Professor Richard Nunes-Vaz at Flinders University, and Dr Timothy Churches from UNSW’s Health Data Science faculty.
As some people do not show symptoms, there could also be more cases lurking within seemingly healthy people – who could then spread it onto those who are older or vulnerable.
Parties and social gatherings, such as these backpackers drinking together in Sydney’s Kings Cross on Tuesday (pictured) will only add to the time Australia spends in lockdown
The report also suggested using aids, such as contact tracing using smart phone apps, which was incredibly successful in South Korea.
But it warned that even with a successful ‘short and sharp’ set of restrictions, this success would be useless if not accompanied by ‘scaled up testing’.
‘We must ensure every new case can be identified rapidly during the lockdown and in the follow-up phase, when restrictions are lifted,’ the experts wrote.
‘We need greatly expanded testing including asymptomatic, high risk people (contacts, evacuees and people in enclosed outbreaks such as cruise ships, aged care facilities, prisons).
A group of young European partygoers was filmed ignoring all COVID-19 social distancing rules as they crammed together for a barbecue in a Bondi apartment on Tuesday night
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 5,550
New South Wales: 2,493
Western Australia: 436
South Australia: 407
Australian Capital Territory: 93
Northern Territory: 26
TOTAL CASES: 5,550
‘It’s time to scale up our capacity to produce test kits domestically, procure them from overseas or actively ask for help from other countries that have achieved testing at scale.
‘Without such an improvement in the public health response capacity, the coronavirus epidemic will almost certainly bounce back when even the current lockdown restrictions are lifted.
‘We have examples of countries which have failed and succeeded. We should allow these examples to guide our response.’
Rates of infection have dropped in recent days, with just a 9.4 per cent increase in cases on Sunday, compared to 26.2 per cent on March 22, in the first signs the coronavirus curve may be flattening.
‘That’s an achievement to which all Australians have contributed,’ Mr Hunt said in Canberra.
This can continue, experts said, as long as a lockdown continues and is eventually realxed in a ‘safe and phased manner’ – only when the daily case numbers are much lower.
‘China has shown that a lockdown can be highly effective and can be relaxed safely in a phased manner when daily case numbers are much lower,’ the report read.
Staying inside, like these returning travellers in a hotel in Brisbane on March 31 (pictured) could also help
The advice comes as unprecedented ‘stage four’ restrictions are looming in Victoria, with officials warning there is ‘no end date in sight’ for the lockdown measures.
The restrictions, which will further impact every aspect of Australian’s everyday lives, could be brought in imminently, the state’s premier Daniel Andrews warned.
Officials in Western Australia announced 22 new cases overnight on Friday, bringing the state total to 422 as it shuts its borders to non-residents.
A 12th death in New South Wales was also announced on Friday, taking Australia’s national death toll to 28, with 5,337 confirmed cases across the country.
Victoria suffered its seventh coronavirus-related death overnight, when a man in his 80s died.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Mr Andrews said: ‘I think there will be a stage four.
‘When I’m in a position and when I need to make those announcements I will.’
Victoria is already handing out on-the-spot $1,600 fines for breaking the two-person rule.
Mr Andrews said that while the slow down in infection rates was helping, there was still much hardship ahead – and warned people not to risk lives by going out.
‘No recreational fishing trip, no trip to the golf course is worth someone’s life,’ he said??
‘I can’t tell you when this is going to end.
‘And I certainly don’t want anyone to think that because we have got some reasonable stability at the moment that we are out of the woods.
‘It is not going to be over in weeks, it is going to be months and months.’
Scott Morrison urges tourists to leave Australia amid pandemic
Backpackers (pictured) are seen leaving Bondi and heading to Sydney airport on Friday after Mr Morrison’s announcement
On Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told all tourists and foreign students who are unable to support themselves financially during the coronavirus pandemic to go home.
The prime minister said that while ‘it is lovely to have visitors in good times’, now is the time for them to leave so officials can focus on supporting Australians in need.
It is likely a difficult position for Mr Morrison to take, given his previous role as director of Tourism Australia, where he famously hired Lara Bingle to help lure travellers in.
But now ministers are focused on helping to keep Australians afloat, pledging $130 billion for a JobKeepers package for workers, many of whom faced losing their jobs.
His call comes to foreign nationals who are unable to support themselves financially during the pandemic – saying they are not ‘being held here’ and should leave.
SOCIAL DISTANCING LAWS EXPLAINED STATE-BY-STATE
Gatherings are restricted to two people, with residents only allowed out of their homes for a few essential reasons.
This includes buying food or essential goods, getting a medical treatment or engaging in physical exercise.
You can also visit a terminally ill relative or attend a funeral.
Students are also allowed to attend childcare, school, college or university.
From April 3, the state’s borders will be closed to everyone except residents and essential workers.
New South Wales
NSW officials are also enforcing the two-person limit, with residents legally obliged to stay at home unless they have a ‘reasonable excuse’.
This includes travelling to work or school, buying food or other essentials, exercise and medical reasons.
It is left up to police officers to decide who will get the fines, with the maximum being an $11,000 fine or six months in prison.
The state has also brought in the two-person limit inside and outside the home – not counting pre-existing members of the household.
Its chief medical officer Dr Brett Sutton confirmed an exception would made for people visiting their boyfriend or girlfriend if they lived separately.
Otherwise, people are allowed to leave the house for one of five reasons – shopping for food, work and education, care reasons, exercise or other extenuating circumstances.
Australian Capital Territory
The ACT is also enforcing the two-person limit, but people are allowed up to two guests inside their homes – only if there is at least four square metres per person.
It also only allows people to leave home for essential reasons, including shopping for essentials, medical reasons, exercise, work or study.
Offenders are being issue with warnings, but may get a fine if they are found to be breaking the rules again.
As well as closing its borders to non-residents, WA has also introduced fines for people who cross out of their region.
Nine regions have been carved up, and people cannot move between them for anything but an essential reason.
This includes going to work, medical appointments, school or other types of education.
Drivers are also allowed to transport freight, and people can go to a shop outside of their area if the essentials are not available closer to home.
In NT, police are still enforcing a 10-person limit rather than just two people.
But chief minister Michael Gunner warned it may take further action if people don’t stick to the rules.
All non-essential arrivals in the state must self-quarantine for 14 days, and people are not allowed to visit remote communities.
Tasmania also has brought into law the two-person limit, with residents only allowed to leave home for essential reasons.
This includes shopping, exercising, and going to healthcare apppointments.
Going to a vet is also allowed, as is going to school or caring for another person.
Arrivals must self-isolate for 14 days.
SA has also stuck to the 10-person limit, with $1,000 on-the-spot fines for people who have a larger group.
Again, all arrivals into the state must self-isolate for 14 days.