Coronavirus Government Global Briefing: May 11

By Chris Woods

Monday May 11, 2020

Welcome to Coronavirus Government Global Briefing, Mandarin Premium’s morning update on everything in local and global government responses to the COVID-19 outbreak.

France reopens primary schools, plans for a two-tiered reopening

After experiencing one of the worst outbreaks in Europe, France will begin to reopen primary schools and most businesses from today.

Like childcare centres, which also reopen today, some schools have been kept open for essential workers, and Blanquer is confident staff have had time to make the appropriate upgrades to ensure social distancing and hygiene requirements.

Classrooms will fit a maximum of 15 children, desks will sit at least 6 feet apart (1.83 metres), teachers will wear masks and, finally, attendance will be purely voluntary; as education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer told NPR on Friday, the government has been questioning parents to gauge attendance rates:

“So we know that we are going to start with 15 or 20% of the students, and then the other ones are going to come. It’s a question of trust. I think that when those who do not come will see that things are going well with those who come, they will be convinced. Those who will stay in their houses, we’ll have a distance learning system working for them.”

However, with neighbours Spain and Italy keeping schools shut at least until September, the Macron government’s timeframe had faced significant internal opposition. Last week, 300 mayors urged the government to delay the reopening at least another week.

Two-tiered approach to secondary school, other restrictions

As the BBC reports, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced last Thursday that, with the country “cut in two” in terms of infection rates, further restrictions will ease accordingly.

Phillippe, unveiling a green and red zones map on a map that combined infections over the past seven days with ICU demand and testing capacity, announced that secondary schools, cafes and restaurants will open in the green zones in June, infection rates permitting.

In the red zones — Paris, Ile-de-France, Hauts-de-France, Grand Est and Bourgogne-Franche-Comte — public parks and gardens will remain closed.

Source: French Health Ministry via BBC.

In other changes, masks will have to be worn on all public transport, which will be disinfected at least once a day, and stores will have the right to demand shoppers wear them, and social distancing rules of at least a metre will remain in place.

But for the first time since the lockdown begun, as the BBC notes, all residents — except the French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte — will be able to return to work and leave their homes without downloading a permit.

On France’s lack of faith in government

Finally, with France experiencing a death toll of 26,313, a caseload of over 176,000, and new cases at roughly a quarter of April highs, residents would be forgiven for a lack of faith in their government.

An Odoxa-CGI political barometer for France Inter, L’Express and the Regional Press published on 28 April found that, even while support for Macron and Philippe increased, six in ten participants did not believe the government will succeed in deconfinement this month.

With a seven-day-average of new cases is 1,263, France is hardly out of the woods yet. Source: FT.

However, as correspondent John Lichfield explores in a Politico op-ed, the mistrust of government in France provides something of a contrast to the relatively-high support of US and UK governments that, on a quantitative level, have done a far worse job in suppressing outbreaks:

“Apart from a couple of recent glitches, the government has communicated clearly and honestly — especially in comparison to the nationalistic bluster in the United Kingdom and the United States or the caginess about mortality figures in the Netherlands and elsewhere.

“And yet the overwhelming mood in France, not just on social media but in the mainstream media, is not just critical but viciously hostile. This is not just unjustified; it’s dangerous.”

Lichfield, who applauds the governments’ health care system, economic stimulus measures and use of  high-speed trains to move sick patients to relatively untouched areas, also notes a recent Pasteur Institute study that slipped through the 24/7 news cycle. Researchers found that while France was, apparently, successful in isolating the original COVID-19 strain that emerged from China, the country has been hamstrung by the global, mutated version since mid-to-late January,

In return, the government has dealt with more than 30 legal complaints over alleged government negligence, a (symbolic) Senate vote against the progressive loosing of lockdowns from today, and, amongst the general populace, “France’s love of abstraction and intellectual absolutism; its tendency to see everything as a matter of betrayal, conspiracy or national disgrace.”

“Almost every government has got things wrong in the present crisis, some more seriously than others. But in no other country is there such a discrepancy between what the government actually got right and the cacophony of criticism hurled at it from the political classes or social and mainstream media.”

But, even accounting for cultural differences, we’ll leave it to you to decide which of the following two reactions are truly “dangerous”: mistrust in the government that oversaw the world’s sixth-worse outbreak, or faith in governments that recorded, respectively, the worst and fourth-worth.

South Korea’s advice on returning to work

In late April, the South Korean government released a 68-page guide for staying safe even as the country reopens, with topics including, but not limited to, church, shopping at small and medium-sized markets, restaurants, schools, internet cafes, weddings and funerals, and using public toilets.

Now, in a piece shared at the World Economic Forum, Quartz‘s Alexandra Ossola and translator Haesung Jeon have unpacked the government’s recommendation for returning to work, a world that trades socialisation for suppression, “in which conferences held online are the norm, hand sanitiser is at the ready, and meeting attendees sit six feet apart.”

Check the full list out for the full advice, but some highlights include:

For employees

  • Don’t do things that cause people to spit, such as chanting
  • Regularly disinfect places where your hands often touch (table, keyboard, mouse, phone, etc.)
  • Use your own teacups, spoons, and other paraphernalia
  • Avoid happy hours, club activities, and other small group events; return home early after work

For employers

  • Provide opportunities for employees to check their temperature using thermal scans or no-touch thermometers
  • Create an atmosphere in which employees can freely take advantage of paid time off and flexible working hours. Make sure there are no disadvantages from doing so
  • Provide makeshift meeting rooms to host visitors according to the needs of the workplace
  • Appoint a department or point person in charge of quarantine efforts

On meetings

  • The meeting host should check for respiratory abnormalities or fever and make sure those with symptoms don’t attend
  • Provide a well-ventilated, spacious area for the meeting and be sure to ventilate before the meeting
  • Take a break every hour to ventilate the space by opening doors and windows
  • Maintain a distance of two meters between every attendee (minimum one meter). If this cannot be met, refrain from meeting in person. If the meeting is still necessary, ensure every attendee wears a mask, even when speaking

On the home front: states release roadmaps

Following the release of Scott Morrison and the national cabinet’s three-step, if broad plan to ease restrictions, multiple states have detailed when and how they expect to ease current restrictions.

Queensland

First, the Queensland government unveiled a state roadmap on Friday afternoon. This follows changes that came into effect yesterday that allow up to five members of one household to visit another household.

Stage One: 11.59pm, Friday 15 May

  • Gatherings of a maximum of 10 people together in a public space
  • Dining in at restaurants, pubs, clubs, RSLs and cafes for a maximum of 10 patrons at one time as part of a gradual re-opening (no bars or gaming)
  • Recreational travel of a radius of up to 150km from your home for day trips
  • Some beauty therapies and nail salons for up to 10 people at one time
  • Reopening of libraries. playground equipment, skate parks and outdoor gyms (a maximum of 10 at one time)
  • Wedding guests increased to 10 people and funeral attendance increased to 20 (30 outdoors)
  • Open homes and auctions with a maximum of 10 people at one time
  • Re-opening public pools and lagoons (eg South Bank, Cairns, Airlie Beach) with a maximum of 10 people at a time or greater numbers with an approved plan

For Outback Queensland, where there have been no COVID cases, two special concessions have been made:

  • Dining in at pubs and cafes will be up to 20 for locals only, reflecting the important role these venues play in connecting small outback communities
  • Recreational travel of a radius of up to 500 kilometres reflecting the long distances in the Outback

Stage Two: 11.59pm, Friday 12 June

  • Gatherings at homes with a maximum of 20 visitors
  • Dining-in at restaurants, pubs, clubs, cafes and RSLs for up to 20 patrons at a time and an option for more with an approved COVID-safe plan
  • Holiday travel within your region

At the time, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that Stage Three would include reviews of border closures and build to 100 customers for venues giving certainty to business, communities and families to be able to plan ahead.

The government has since released a visual guide, which includes separate timelines for school openings.

South Australia

Similarly, the South Australian government launched their state roadmap following Friday’s national cabinet meeting.

Step One: Today, 11 May

The following will reopen with a maximum of 10/one person per square metre rule, unless stated otherwise:

  • Regional travel
  • Uni and TAFE face-to-face tutorials
  • Outdoor dining for restaurants and cafes
  • Community, youth and RSL halls
  • Auctions and inspections
  • Local government libraries
  • Sport training (outdoor only)
  • Funerals (20 indoor/30 outdoor max)
  • Worship, weddings and ceremonies
  • Pools (limits apply)
  • Campgrounds and caravan parks

Step Two: 8 June (subject to public health assessment at the time)

Similar general rule but with the maximum number of people bumped up to 20:

  • Cinemas and theatres
  • Seated dining
  • Galleries and museums
  • Beauty, nails, tattoo, massage (non-therapeutic)
  • Driving instruction lessons
  • Gyms and indoor fitness
  • Funerals (50 max)
  • Sport transition to competition without spectators, including indoor

Future steps for consideration

  • Larger gatherings
  • Licenced pubs and bars (non-food)
  • Nightclubs
  • Shisha/hookah bars
  • International students returning
  • Casino and gaming venues
  • Stadiums and larger entertainment venues
  • Food courts
  • Spas and saunas
  • State border restrictions
  • Travel into protected communities

Tasmania

Tasmania also announced their own roadmap to recovery on Friday, along with a more comprehensive, 13-page report ‘A Plan To Rebuild Tasmania’.

The following will be allowed from today, 11 May:

  • Funerals, will increase from 10 to 20 attendees
  • Aged care visits, will move to one visit per week and no more than two visitors, managed by the facility
  • National parks and reserves will open to residents for exercise within 30km of their home
  • TasTAFE campuses and training facilities may open for small groups of students only attending practical learning and assessment sessions

Stage One: 18 May (subject to public health advice) 

  • Gatherings increase to 10 people (except visitors to households for any purpose which is capped at 5 people) for indoor and outdoor, including real estate, small religious gatherings and weddings. Funerals can extend to 30 people outdoors
  • Restaurants and cafes in all settings (including restaurants in pubs, clubs, hotels and RSLs) open and seat patrons of up to 10 people at a time. Seated table service only with social distancing
  • Border controls will remain in place, except Tasmanian residents can quarantine in their principal residence if it is suitable
  • Community and local government facilities and libraries will be allowed to open for up to 10 people
  • Park exercise equipment and playgrounds, pools and boot camps open for up to 10 people

Stage One also includes separate dates relating to gatherings, schools, sport and nursing homes.

25 May

  • Kindergarten to Year 6 students return to learning at school
  • Year 11 and 12 students at extension schools and colleges return to learning at school
  • Aged care visits, will move to national restrictions of two visitors, once a day

9 June

  • High School students from Year 7 to 10 return to school for learning

13 June

  • Racing will resume subject to a review and risk assessment by public health

Stage Two: 5 June (subject to public health advice)

  • Gatherings will increase to 20 people at a time for indoor and outdoor area including restaurants/cafes, cinemas, museums, galleries, historic sites, religious gatherings and weddings
  • Funerals can have up to 50 attendees
  • Accommodation will be unlimited
  • Camping, overnight boating and shacks open
  • Open homes and auctions can resume with up to 20 people
  • Border controls remain in place
  • Gyms and boot camps will increase to 20 people
  • Beauty services (including tattoo, nails, waxing, facials and tanning) can open for up to 20 people
  • Park exercise equipment and playgrounds open for up to 20 people
  • Outdoor community sport resume, with up to 20 athletes/personnel
  • Indoor sport and recreation, including pools with up to 20 people with no spectators

Stage Three: 13th of July (subject to public health advice)

  • Gatherings: 50 – 100 (indoor/outdoor) with the maximum allowable number to be determined by public health
  • Aged care homes will be allowed five visitors and multiple visits
  • Border controls will remain in place
  • Consider opening bars, night clubs and casinos/gaming
  • Markets to open, subject to public health advice
  • Food courts and food vans at markets open
  • Spas and bathhouses reopen
  • Day trips and camping for school groups allowed
  • Outdoor community sport to resume, with numbers to be guided by Public Health
  • Indoor sport and recreation, including pools with numbers to be guided by Public Health

Western Australia

Yesterday, the Western Australian government released their own four phase roadmap, with Phase 1 already in place following the relaxing of some restrictions — including allowing indoor and outdoor non-work gatherings of up to 10 people — from April 27, 2020.

Phase 2: Monday, 18 May (or 11.59pm on Sunday, 17 May)

This stage focuses on “encouraging Western Australians to return to work, unless they are unwell or vulnerable, so the WA economy can further rebuild in a safe and measured way”:

  • Indoor and outdoor non-work gatherings lifted to 20 people
  • People are encouraged to return to work, unless they are unwell or vulnerable
  • Cafés and restaurants can reopen with meal service (including within pubs, bars, clubs, hotels and casino), limited to 20 patrons and the four square metre rule applied
  • Weddings and funerals, limited to up to 20 attendees (30 for outdoor)
  • Places of worship, community facilities and libraries to re-open, limited to 20 patrons
  • Community sports (non-contact) limited to 20 people
  • Outdoor or indoor fitness classes (minimal shared equipment) limited to 20 participants
  • Public swimming pools can open under strict rules (one indoor pool and one outdoor pool), limited to 20 patrons per pool

If businesses or premises want to reopen they will be required to complete an official COVID Safety Plan. More details on this will be released shortly, in consultation with industry.

As part of Phase 2, regional travel restrictions will also change, bringing the number of current borders within Western Australia from 13 to only four (not including the Commonwealth Biosecurity zone and remote communities). The new regional boundaries will allow:

  • Travel between the south-west, great southern, wheatbelt, Perth and Peel regions
  • Travel between the mid-west, Gascoyne and Pilbara regions (excluding the biosecurity zone)
  • Travel within the Goldfields-Esperance region (excluding the biosecurity zone)
  • Travel permitted within the Kimberley local government areas (the commonwealth’s biosecurity zone remains in place)
Source: WA government.

Phase 3: “Around four weeks after Phase 2”

The state’s third stage will be finalised in the coming weeks — based on the advice from the Chief Health Officer and to take into account the infection rates across WA — and will focus on “continuing to build stronger links within the community and include further resumption of commercial and recreational activities,” including:

  • Further increases in the number of people allowed at indoor and outdoor non-work gatherings, including patrons at cafés and restaurants, weddings and funerals
  • Possible further relaxation of regional travel restrictions
  • Restrictions further relaxed for gyms, health clubs and indoor sport centres
  • Contact community sport (indoor and outdoor) permitted, with gathering limits
  • Beauty therapy and personal care services permitted
  • Auction houses and real estate auctions (not just online as it is currently)
  • Public playgrounds, outdoor gym equipment, skate parks, zoos, cinemas, galleries, museums and concert venues permitted to open, with gathering limits

The WA government also announced that Phase 4 will be assessed and finalised in due course, with the state’s hard border with the rest of Australia expected to be the final restriction lifted.

ACT and NSW

Finally, while not a long-term roadmap, the ACT government announced on Friday, 8 May that the following would come into effect from Saturday:

  • All indoor and outdoor gatherings can have a maximum of 10 people (including children). This includes gatherings at a person’s home, which can be a maximum of 10 people (with exceptions where two households coming together results in a gathering of more than 10 people)
  • Weddings can now have up to 10 people attend, excluding those conducting the ceremony
  • Indoor funerals can have up to 20 people attend, excluding those conducting the service, OR outdoor funerals can have up to 30 people attend, excluding those conducting the service
  • Religious ceremonies and places of worship can have up to 10 people attend, excluding those conducting the service.
  • Outdoor boot camps and personal fitness training can be held with a maximum of 10 people, excluding the trainer. There is to be no sharing of equipment
  • Real estate open houses and auctions can proceed with a maximum of 10 people, excluding necessary real estate personnel

Public schools will return to on-campus learning in stages over the coming four weeks from Monday 18 May (week three of term 2) to Tuesday 2 June (week 6 of term 2).

Similarly, NSW yesterday announced that the state will ease restriction from Friday 15 May.

These will allow:

  • Outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people, including weddings
  • Cafes and restaurants with 10 patrons at any one time
  • Up to 5 visitors to a household at any one time
  • Indoor funerals up to 20 mourners, outdoor funerals up to 30
  • Religious gatherings/places of worship up to 10 worshippers
  • Use of outdoor equipment with caution; and outdoor pools open with restrictions

For health department updates: Federal, NSW, Victoria, QueenslandACTSouth AustraliaTasmaniaNorthern Territory and Western Australia.

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