Its becoming obvious that many leaders are unable to ‘see the wood for the trees’, and want to take a softly softly approach to the clawing back of the Coronavirus Lockdown.
It is becoming increasingly likely some leaders are easing their lockdowns on a trickle down programme.
But little is publicly known about the plan to roll back the new rules.
It was 10 days ago, on the Easter long weekend, when Premier Mark McGowan of WA Australia who first revealed there would be a review of the restrictions at the beginning of May, and then each month following.
But despite regular questions at daily media conferences, Mr McGowan and Health Minister Roger Cook have been loath to provide details about which rules might be relaxed, when and how.
Dine-in meals still off the table
The Premier conceded yesterday the forced closure of cafes and restaurants would remain in place for some time yet.
Venues will continue to be restricted to providing takeaway services
When they are allowed to reopen, it is anticipated it will initially be with strict social distancing protocols in place.
There has been no clear end date set for the forced closure of pubs and clubs in WA
A staged rollback of regional travel bans
Non-essential travel between WA’s regions is set to remain illegal for at least several more weeks after the Premier all but ruled out addressing it in the first review.
When the time does arrive to reconsider the ban, the Health Minister has said it was likely different regions would be opened at different times, decided on a case-by-case basis.
But travel between other regional areas, such as someone driving from the Great Southern into the South West, may be permitted sooner.
One restriction Mr McGowan was clear would not be reversed soon was the closure of the WA border.
“I think the intrastate borders will be in place for a period of time yet. The interstate borders will be in place, I think, for at least six months,” he said.
“But other parts of the measures we’ve put in place will be under active consideration, particularly in light of National Cabinet conversations.
“National Cabinet over the course of this week will continue to discuss the thresholds for removing certain restrictions. That will be a very careful and cautious approach.”
Resumption of elective surgeries
Prime Minister Scott Morrison today announced that the National Cabinet had agreed on a scaling back of a ban on elective surgeries.
Mr Cook said on Sunday he was confident WA hospitals were ready to resume urgent category two elective surgeries, as he announced a plan to increase the number of ventilated beds ahead of the peak flu season.
Easing rules through suppression over elimination
Despite recording no new cases of COVID-19 in the state yesterday, Mr Cook said WA was still not aiming for a New Zealand-style elimination of the virus.
What this should say is, despite no cases of Covid 19, the reality is we will remain in lockdown. Stop comparing ourselves with other countries. Forget New Zealand. This is Insanity personified!
“I think all that does is set you up for 12 months or 18 months of complete isolation, and I think ultimately we want the Western Australian community and economy to be much more open in relation to that,” he said.
“The strategy that we’ve adopted is the one adopted by the National Cabinet, which is around suppression, making sure that you get the amount of disease in the community down to a controllable level.
“Then you can take measures to reinvigorate and rejuvenate the economy.”
Any easing of restrictions could increase the risk of a coronavirus outbreak, but Mr Cook said that was now a risk WA was prepared for.
“Our hospitals are ready to go, so in the event that we continue to experience these low numbers we can look at releasing restrictions,” he said on Sunday.
“You do one at a time and then sit back and see what the effect of that is. If we’ve still got those numbers under control, then you can go to another measure, sit back, see what the response is in terms of our numbers.
“And continue to test, test, test to make sure that we’ve got line of sight of any outbreak of the disease.”
Mr Cook said the approach meant WA could begin to ease back towards normality while maintaining the ability to detect and rapidly halt any outbreaks and to effectively treat cases of COVID-19.
The Art of Public Health
Many questions are yet to be answered about the path the State Government might take WA on in search of normality, but there have been some insights offered about their decision-making process.
Mr Cook has previously described balancing the economic, social and health impacts of different restrictions as part of “the art of public health” rather than as a “hard science”.
Curtin University pro vice-chancellor and infectious diseases epidemiology Professor Archie Clements said the Government would be forced to weigh up a risk-based scenario for each measure it considered relaxing.
On the one hand was the risk posed by the coronavirus worsening if the measure is relaxed, and on the other was the risk posed by damage to the economy and social disruption if it was not.
Professor Clements said there were two primary concerns weighing on the coronavirus side.
“One is that there might be undetected community transmission, and the other is that if vigilance is lifted, then there’s a risk of either reintroduction or resurgence,” he said.
“But having said that, I think that it is timely for the Government to be starting to think about the path out of lockdown.”
Two-Person Rule Predicted to Go
Professor Clements said while he was not directly advising the Government, as an observer he considered the decision to reopen schools in the second term as a measure which carried a low risk and a relatively high economic and social reward.
He expected it would be mainly low-risk restrictions which would be eased early in the process, such as the bottle shop restrictions rolled back yesterday.
Also likely to fall into the low risk category and potentially up for consideration at the May review, according to Professor Clements, would be an easing of the “two-person rule”
“Over the next few weeks I would expect to see more flexibility or more openness around small social events, people being able to visit each other in their houses, that sort of thing,” he said.
“But it’s got to be done in a very careful way and I wouldn’t expect sort of wholesale freedom for some time to come.”
Some flexibility, more flexibility and even more openness around small social events,…..but don’t expect wholesale freedom for some time to come. Why not? This is really stretching the relationship.
Aged care and prison visits remain restricted
Professor Clements said he expected some level of reopening of cafes and restaurants to allow socially-distanced dining-in would follow in the not too distant future, with the economic and social gains outweighing the relatively low risk of spreading the virus.
But he said the balance might tip the other way when it came to bans on visiting aged care homes and prisons.
“They are high-risk populations residing in places where epidemics spread quickly and can be difficult to control,” he said.
“I would expect there would be restrictions around aged care and prisons for some time.”
Risk continues to outweigh reward for crowds
These planned staged rollouts still spell bad news for:
- Pubs and nightclubs
- Sporting matches,
- Concerts and festivals remain off limits for many months to come
“The very big events, where a lot of people from different locations mix together for hours on end, they are high risk and are likely to be restricted for some time,” he said.
“There’s plenty of examples in other parts of the world where large events like that have been responsible for significant transmission and mixing of people who have led to infections being spread all over the place.
“Those sorts of things, we really wouldn’t be doing that until we were sure that there was no community transmission.
“[That] is unfortunate because a lot of those things are economically very important and generate huge amounts of revenue, lots of jobs are dependent on those sporting and cultural events.”
Two main considerations around business
WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief economist Aaron Morey said when it came to weighing up the economic end of the scale in deciding whether to ease restrictions, there were two major considerations.
The first was the ability of any sector, industry or individual business to maintain effective social distancing should they reopen.
“Obviously it’s harder for some businesses to do than others,” he said.
“There are some services and businesses where it’s impossible for the person providing the service to maintain distance, or where there are a lot of people in small spaces.”
Mr Morey said there could be great variability between different businesses within certain sectors themselves.
“It really does depend on how it’s managed,” he said.
“Take the example of a pub. You can have a pub that’s quite quiet and there’s people spaced out, or you can have a pub that’s heaving with people.”
Mr Morey said the second major economic consideration which might influence the order in which restrictions were rolled back would be the sheer number of jobs and level of activity that would be returned to the economy.
“They need to account for the economic significance of different sectors and businesses, both in terms of their place in the economy and how they contribute to the broader economy, and also what percentage of jobs they comprise in the broader economy,” he said.
A health economy needs a healthy community
Mr Morey urged the Government to be bold in reintegrating WA back into the international economy during the post-pandemic recovery phase, but said the business community supported the cautious approach taken in line with health advice.
He said if restrictions were to be removed and then put back in place due to a resurgence of the virus, the eventual outcome would cause further damage to already ailing consumer confidence.
“Ultimately, and in the long run, the interests of our economy are aligned with the interest of the health and safety of our community,” he said.
“Overseas, it’s those countries that have failed to put in place the proper measures to contain the spread of the virus that have had the biggest economic fallouts.
“So, the business community supports the Federal and State Governments in imposing appropriate restrictions.
“They’re acting on the best health advice and ultimately, we need to do all we can within those health constraints to help our businesses and their workers get to the other side.”
Many of the businesses in WA which have been shut down were not legally required to close due to restrictions, such as retail outlets which could still operate with distancing measure in place.
But Mr Morey said most of the slow-down and shutdowns in WA were indirectly a result of the restrictions.
“There are a number of interrelated effects, but it ultimately all comes back mainly to those necessary restrictions that governments have put in place to protect the broader community,” he said.
“There is some impacts through consumer confidence, there’s some impacts through disruption to international trade and supply chains, and flow-on impacts from people losing their jobs and having less income.
“But the principle cause behind it is those restrictions on movement, on visiting certain businesses and the like.”
He said he appreciated the need for the Government to take a considered approach with the process of easing restrictions, but said businesses would benefit from more clear information about what to expect.
“The more clarity that businesses have about what’s going to happen the better, they can plan better for reopening their business,” he said.
“We need Government to carefully consider how they are going to reopen the economy, they need to communicate that with the business community.
“But we don’t want to push and rush Government into those decisions too early, because ultimately we need it to be a very considered, prudent, careful, staged relaxation of restrictions.”
The federal government should consider easing restrictions in some parts of the economy as Australia continues its impressive flattening of the coronavirus curve, according to Sky News Political editor Andrew Clennell. Elective surgeries, including IVF, will gradually be phased back in as the government moves to lift some coronavirus restrictions.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters on Tuesday while he is pleased with the decreasing rate of infection within Australia, it’s important the government does not lift restrictions too soon or risk an outbreak of community coronavirus infection. “We laid down some clear markers as to what the requirements would be,” he said. “We said there needed to be an effective rate of transmission less than the score of 1. “And we said we need to get in place over these four weeks that we’re now in – almost one week down in that timetable – of testing, tracing and a response capability on the ground.”
Mr Clennell said the situation “is like a couple of shower taps.” “You can turn the hot on a bit, which is the economy, and the cold on a bit, which is health,” he said. “I think there is room for calibration before the four weeks. I think some of these prescriptions are too black-and-white.” He said there is now considerable pressure on the national cabinet to lift some of the COVID-19 restrictions. There are 6,633 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Australia, 4124 people have recovered and 71 have succumbed to the novel pathogen.
Sky News host Andrew Bolt says the Australian public are being fed “absolute porkies about this coronavirus” with the latest “whopper” being delivered to scare everyone even further. Mr Bolt said when he again raises the point now is the time to relax “some of the less useful” social distancing bans, he is often subject to criticism. “They say, it’s precisely because of the bans that the infection rate is so low, and I should shut up with my dangerous talk,” he said. Mr Bolt said while he believes some measures are important, the threat of coronavirus, “which is real … has been wildly exaggerated”. He said, “models that our politicians were listening to a month ago when they freaked, 150,000 could die, were plainly wrong”. Australians must “start asking questions of our politicians” such as “why did you panic and when, please when, will you stop?” he said.
David Icke reports;
France’s President Mr Macron said that “movements will be very strongly reduced” for 15 days
starting at midday Tuesday. He said people will only be permitted to leave their
homes for necessary trips such as going to work or the supermarket.
People who break these restrictions will be “punished”, although the French leader
did not elaborate further. However, his Interior Minister Christophe Castaner later
confirmed that anyone walking outside “for any reason” will have to download a
form stating the reason for their trip. If they do not comply with this they could be fined up to £188.
Mr Macron said the total lockdown has been put in place because people have not
complied with earlier public health measures. He added: “We are at war.”
Borders with other European countries will also be closed, although French nationals will be allowed to “return home.”
Funny how all the leaders start using the same terminology – “we are at war”, it just means they can roll out 1001 draconian “emergency measures” seemingly without question – the war is with the people, it’s been a long time in the planning, and if the people don’t start waking up soon then their prison cells await.
If the peoples of any country would begin the push back it would be the French – who I have a lot of respect and admiration for (unlike that nation of queuers the British who will put up with any old s**t as long as it doesn’t impact their mortgages!!) – I would expect to see the first mass public ‘disorder’ coming out of France anytime soon.