National cabinet to decide on eased COVID-19 restrictions on Friday

By Shannon Jenkins

Friday May 1, 2020

minister reshuffle
Scott Morrison hopes his new ministerial appointments will have the right impact. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

National cabinet will make a decision on relaxing coronavirus restrictions on Friday, the Prime Minister has said.

Following the group’s most recent meeting, Scott Morrison told a press conference the national cabinet would meet twice this week to discuss its decision. It has been moved a week ahead of schedule in light of Australia’s current success in flattening the curve.

He said 11 out of 15 conditions set by national cabinet for lifting restrictions had been met, but again urged for people to download the government’s coronavirus contact tracing app. The app has so far been downloaded 3.5 million times.

“We need that tool so we can open the economy. So if you haven’t downloaded the app yet, download it,” he said.

Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy echoed the call.

“We need the app uptake to be higher before we can say that that final piece in the jigsaw puzzle of contact tracing is there,” he said.

He noted Australia now has a sufficient supply of testing kits and masks to respond to the virus, with a low enough number of cases “that we can examine each case, each cluster, and get really detailed epidemiological information on what’s happening”.

However, he argued Australia must up its testing — including of asymptomatic people — and called for “anyone who has respiratory symptoms, a cough or a cold or a sore throat, to get tested” and to stay home from work.

Cohorts that have been encouraged to get tested include aged care workers, health workers, and hospital patients.

Following a briefing from Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy, the PM said Australia’s unemployment rate was expected to rise to 10% or more. He said 1.5m people have registered for the jobseeker payment.

A whopping 900,000 claims have been processed by Services Australia staff over the past six weeks, and more than 950,000 applications have been made to access their super, he added.

Morrison also announced the government would make a one-off payment of $205m to the aged care sector to help it respond to the pandemic and comply with a new industry code. Aged care and sport minister Richard Colbeck said all the major aged care providers have agreed to the new code.

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