National Cabinet is unlikely to make quick changes to restrictions when it meets tomorrow to chart a roadmap out of the coronavirus crisis, the ABC understands.
- National Cabinet will likely agree to ease restrictions in four-week increments, rather than all at once
- This will allow monitoring of the impact each change has on infection risk
- The Federal Government sees getting schools back to normal as the “keystone” of reopening the economy
When changes are made, they will come in four-week increments to gauge their impact on the number of infections in Australia.
The premiers, chief ministers and the Prime Minister are determined not to inadvertently allow a second wave of major infections by lifting restrictions haphazardly.
But, on the firm advice of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), National Cabinet is expected to agree to a clear framework to allow Australians to understand how the next few months will look.
For every relaxation of social distancing rules or easing of shutdown measures, there will be a so-called “epidemiological timeframe” to analyse whether the change causes an uptick in infections.
That will allow health authorities the chance for a medical stocktake of the curve, which will take between three and five weeks per set of restrictions lifted.
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The thinking behind the timeframe is that if several restrictions are lifted at once, it will be hard to gauge the effect of each step.
Ultimately, each state and territory will have the final say on which restrictions are eased in their respective patches.
However, the approach of the National Cabinet has been to establish as much consistency as possible to allow the federation common ground rules.
Earlier today, Health Minister Greg Hunt said he expected “a clear road map” to be the result of the meeting.
“What I expect is a clear road map out with clear stages,” he said.
“Then each state will be able to judge their own circumstances and readiness to go to easing restrictions.”
States are at varying states of readiness for the lifting of restrictions, with Tasmania and Victoria being more cautious, the latter in particular on schools, which the Government sees as a “keystone” to reviving the economy.
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Both states have seen recent clusters emerge, one at a meatworks and one at a hospital.
Government’s five-step path back to normal
The Government sees the next six or so months in terms of a five-step process.
First is fighting the virus, which has been, at least by world comparisons, going quite well.
Second is delivering relief to Australians who have been hit by massive disruption. This has come in the form of the JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments, early access to superannuation and the business cash flow program.
The Government does not believe its massive JobKeeper program, which began payments yesterday and has already paid out more than $1 billion, is affordable to continue paying beyond its expiry in late September.
That has underscored the need for the third step: reopening the economy as safely as possible.
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Once National Cabinet has confronted step three, the next step will be building confidence and momentum among businesses and consumers after a once-in-a-century economic shock.
It would see the Government focus on giving businesses the confidence to hire and restock their shelves, and confidence among individuals to catch the train, return to work and resume community sport.
The fifth step is the economic reset, the new normal Australia will face once the worst of the coronavirus threat has retreated.
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The Government does not know if there will ever be a vaccine for COVID-19 but says the economy needs to get back to as close as possible to its pre-COVID state if economic growth is to return.
The Prime Minister has used the term “COVID-safe economy” in reference to step five, but in truth, the Government is not yet sure what that will look like.
But behind the scenes, the Government’s saying the “old settings” economic and industrial are no longer adequate.
There are no details as to what it plans, but the October budget looms as a once-in-a-generation event that proposes big reform.
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