Australia in ‘good shape’ after loosening coronavirus restrictions, but no decision yet on next stage

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Australia remains on track to move to stage three of lifted coronavirus restrictions by July, but no decision has been made yet.  

Australians have gained more freedom in the last two weeks, with restaurants and cafes allowed to reopen with limits on the number of customers, and students across the country returning to classrooms.  

“It will still take several weeks before we have a full assessment of what that follow-through impact has been and that will help guide further the premiers and chief ministers in the further decisions that they will take in the months ahead,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Friday.

Two weeks since the first significant easing of coronavirus restrictions, Australia looks to be in “good shape”, but chief medical officer Brendan Murphy says it’s too early to say for sure. 

While a formal goal of eliminating all coronavirus cases from Australia has not been set, the government wants to ensure there are no major outbreaks before proceeding to stage three, which allows gatherings of up to 100 people and for most employees to return to workplaces. 

“We don’t expect to get [outbreaks], we expect to be able to control them, but at this stage we do need to be cautious about saying that the relaxation of restrictions hasn’t had a deleterious public health effect,” Professor Murphy said.

“We don’t think so, but we must watch and be very careful.”

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Professor Murphy said only two coronavirus patients remain on ventilators. 

COAG axed

Mr Morrison also announced the long-running Council of Australian Governments will be scrapped in favour of monthly meetings with the premiers and chief ministers.

The national cabinet was established in March to bring political leaders together to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

The COAG process has been criticised by some as too cumbersome and its meetings had become infrequent in recent years.

“COAG is no more,” Mr Morrison said on Friday.

The national cabinet will continue to meet during the pandemic on a fortnightly basis before moving to monthly meetings in the post-virus period.

Most of the meetings will be held via video conference. Face-to-face meetings will occur twice a year.

Mr Morrison said the agenda would focus on jobs.

“Having the groups operate like a fair-dinkum cabinet has been really important,” he said.

A key reform will be giving treasurers responsibility for national partnership agreements, which cover billions of dollars in funding for services.

Once a year, the national cabinet will meet with the treasurers and Australian Local Government Association to talk about broader issues relevant to the federation.

There will also be a series of ministerial groups on a range of specific issues.

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People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits. Testing for coronavirus is now widely available across Australia.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

The federal government’s coronavirus tracing app COVIDSafe is available for download from your phone’s app store.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at

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