Prime minister Scott Morrison says it will be at least a month before governments will look at lifting current shutdown restrictions, but Australia has made real progress in the past month on getting the virus under control and getting economic support in place.
“Our attention as a national cabinet is now turning to the road out and that road to recovery on the other side,” the PM said yesterday following a meeting of the National Cabinet of state and territory leaders.
Morrison said the cabinet received extensive briefings from RBA Governor Philip Lowe and Treasury, which reinforced that Australia’s response to the pandemic must be two-fold, a synchronised economic and health response.
“On the other side of the virus, as we make our way out, any sort of ‘business as usual’ will need to be reconsidered so that we can get our economy back on track. It will be a different world,” Morrison said.
The PM said federal and state governments will need to work together to assist in business growth on the other side of the pandemic.
“We really do need to prepare ourselves as a country for some very sobering news on the economic front in the months ahead. I think Australians understand that, I think Australians are ready for that, but it is always difficult to receive that news,” he said.
Australia remains in the suppression phase for now in dealing with the virus, and there are still a high number of internationally acquired cases, but it is estimated that more than half of those who contracted coronavirus have already overcome the illness.
“We are doing relatively well – particularly over countries that are using more extreme forms of lockdown,” Morrison said
To lessen restrictions, the PM said there are three important benchmarks to reach.
“The effective reproduction rate is being looked at by each state, to understand how and when we can move to lesser restrictions. We agreed today there are three things to get in place,” he said.
“Firstly, a more extensive surveillance or sentinel testing regime. If we are to move to a different phase we need a more extensive testing regime. We have one of the most extensive – but if we move to a lesser restriction environment, we need to have greater testing.
“Then we need greater tracing capability than we do now. This is the heavy lifting the state government has been doing. They are a team of Sherlock Holmes but we need to lift that to industrial capability and we need to do it using the support of technology and the support of Australians
“We need a local response capability. We’ve seen that already in Tasmania. the Ausmat team and Defence force moving quickly to contain an outbreak, to lock it down where it occurs and so it doesn’t transmit to the broader community.”
The PM said to move to an environment with less restrictions, all three measures need to be in place.
“The baseline restrictions will remain in place ‘til we achieve these three goals. These will not change for the next four weeks,” he said.
“The more we do the right thing now the better it will be for everybody… We’ve stayed ahead of it we have to keep ahead of it.”
However, will it will continue to be a six month time – through the Junes and September quarters – for government support, the Prime Minister said, and some restrictions will continue over that time frame.
“I’ve always considered the six months the period in which we’ve been operating and will be operating these lifeline measures in the economy, which is JobSeeker with the JobSeeker supplement, and JobKeeper,” he said.
“They run for those six month periods. We have bought that time to find the road out. Now, whether we do or not, no other country has at this point. But this is our goal. To ensure that we can get the economy at a level which will not require those extreme levels of income support and the economy will be able to support people on those incomes in a self-sustaining way. We have bought that time for six months and we intend to use it wisely.
“We would expect that there will be restrictions in some form or another running over that entire six month period but the degree of those and how much they can be relaxed or changed over that period, well, that will very much depend on the circumstances, the health and the economic advice at the time.”
- Additional reporting by Simon Thomsen