Businesses should expect nationwide trading restrictions to last for at least another four weeks or until federal, state and territory officials can significantly extend Australia’s COVID-19 response, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says.
Speaking to reporters in Canberra after a national cabinet meeting on Thursday afternoon, Morrison said Australia would need to improve its coronavirus response and containment capabilities before “baseline restrictions” announced in recent weeks could be lifted.
“We want to be very clear with Australians: baseline restrictions we have in place at the moment, there are no plans to change those for the next for weeks,” Morrison said.
Morrison said tougher social lockdown measures in Victoria and NSW, which bar residents from leaving their homes except for essential purposes, would be a matter for state officials to decide, but that those states had agreed to review their own measures over the next month.
In the federal government’s most concrete comments yet about the possible timeline of unprecedented restrictions designed to curb the coronavirus outbreak, Morrison said three main principles would need to be satisfied before conditions would be eased.
These include increased testing, better contract tracing and improved local response capabilities.
Among measures which will be considered by national cabinet are plans to lift contract tracing to an “industrial capability” using technological solutions such as mobile phone tracking.
“We will be needing the support of Australians, if we can get that in place, get the tracing capability up from where it is, that will give us more options and Australians more freedoms,” Morrison said.
The federal government had previously advised businesses to expect trading restrictions to last for at least six months, but Australian efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak have resulted in a slowdown in the rate of infection in recent weeks, spurring optimism restrictions could be lifted sooner.
Economic support measures such as the JobKeeper package have also been outlaid on a six-month time frame, which Morrison described as a “clear goal” on Thursday while leaving the door open to lifting other restrictions much sooner.
“The six-month timeframe gives us a ticking clock … it gives us a clear goal to work towards with restrictions lifted, ideally,” Morrison said.
“About a month from now there will be some changes to those baseline restrictions we put in place a few weeks ago.”
As for which types of businesses should expect an ease in restrictions first, Morrison said “high-value, low-risk economic activities” would be prioritised.