National Cabinet is bringing forward its consideration of coronavirus restrictions imposed across the country, meaning some nationwide restrictions could be lifted in a week.
But when the group of leaders meets next Friday, a checklist of 15 conditions will be on their minds.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Australia is currently meeting 11 of the 15 “precedent conditions” here’s what that means, and where we still need to make progress.
11/15 is a pass, right?
Yeah, but this isn’t high school, so a solid B-minus may not be enough for restrictions to be wound back.
The 15 precedent conditions outline what needs to happen for restrictions to be lifted safely across the country.
Officials say Australia has a strong testing capacity, but there are 14 other requirements too.(ABC News: Stefan Lowe)
Here are the 11 measures Australia is passing, according to the experts at the Australian Health Principal Protection Committee (AHPPC):
- Community adherence to public health measures
- Well-developed understanding of modelling capability, including understanding of virus transmission
- Testing capacity
- A strong public health workforce
- Contact tracing capacity
- A healthcare system able to cope with current demand
- Surge capacity in that healthcare system
- Enough hospital beds and ventilators
- Adequate stocks of masks
- Adequate stocks of medications
- Ongoing workforce training
“Those measures really gave us a pretty good tick from the National Cabinet today,” Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said.
“That’s the basis on which the National Cabinet has said ‘bring back next week some measures for careful consideration of gentle relaxation’.”
Here are the four conditions Australia is yet to meet, but which Mr Morrison plans to “expediate”
While contract tracing is mentioned above, National Cabinet wants to see millions more Australians download the COVIDSafe app, which records your contacts with people in order to help with contact tracing.
The app has been downloaded more than 3 million times.(ABC News: Rachel Riga)
So far 3.5 million Australians have downloaded the app, but Professor Murphy said, despite health professionals’ best contact tracing efforts, that was not enough.
“The methodology is really up to speed except for one thing except for the app uptake,” he said.
“That’s not green at the moment we need the app uptake to be higher before we can say that final piece in the jigsaw puzzle of contact tracing is there.”
Mr Morrison said, while the other three outstanding conditions were the responsibility of Governments, downloading the app was in the hands of Australians.
“Downloading the COVIDSafe app is the major obstacle now between us freeing up a lot of these restrictions in a cautious way,” Mr Morrison said.
Gowns and gloves
Australia has taken significant measures to secure personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep medical staff safe.
Professor Murphy said while shipments of masks secured by the Federal Government had allayed concerns about potential shortages, supply lines for gowns and gloves were still being strengthened.
Australia has plenty of masks, but is securing supply lines for gloves and gowns.(Reuters)
“We are very clear that we have enough masks,” he said.
“We’re still doing some work to be absolutely confident about other elements of PPE, but we’ve got good confidence and those supply lines are now being restored.”
The advice provided to National Cabinet by the AHPPC said state and territory stocks “require confirmation”, and that further modelling of supply lines was needed.
National Cabinet wants to see sophisticated surveillance of COVID-19’s spread across the community.
But the advice released by the Government suggest there is more work to be done.
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Advice provided by the AHPPC said “surveillance mechanisms are well established in jurisdictions, with planned expansion of disease surveillance and testing”.
But it said ‘serosurveillance’ of COVID-19 was still to be developed as a long-term goal.
For those of us who aren’t epidemiologists, serosurveillance is the blood testing for antibodies in the general population, to provide an estimate of how many people have had the virus.
It could shed more light on the number of people who have contracted COVID-19 without realising it.
Resources for the surveillance plan
According to the AHPPC advice, a National Disease Surveillance Plan for COVID-19 has been developed and will continue to be implemented.
But the advice notes that funding and resources for some parts of the plan are yet to materialise.
But overall, Professor Murphy said Australia was in a good place, as it moves into what could be the final week of current restrictions.
“We’re doing pretty well,” he said.
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