It will be at least another four weeks before strict measures to slow the spread of coronavirus are eased in Australia.
The Prime Minister says that before any measures are scaled back, federal and state leaders want crucial benchmarks met to ensure the nation could handle a spike in cases.
This includes a broader testing regime, better contact tracing through a mobile phone app and a greater capacity to respond to local outbreaks.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said some parts of the economy could be restarted in mid-May if those goals are met.
But he expects social distancing measures to remain in place until a vaccine is available.
“If you ease off too quickly too early, then you end up making the situation even worse, and I don’t just mean in the health terms,” he told reporters in Canberra.
In other COVID-19 news:
- Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has demanded China be more transparent about the origins of coronavirus. Mr Dutton said the families of more than 60 Australians who have died from the disease deserve answers about how the outbreak originated. “I think it is incumbent upon China to answer those questions and provide the information so that people can have clarity about exactly what happened,” he told Nine on Friday.
- South Australian health authorities say about 600,000 face masks intended for frontline medical staff have now been declared safe for use, despite earlier being withdrawn from hospitals because of coronavirus concerns.
- The Federal Government has announced a $165 million plan to keep Virgin and Qantas domestic flights going.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack says it is for 220 flights every week, for eight weeks, on 60 routes.
- An Agriculture Department report finds 70 per cent of all that is grown in Australia is exported and the country will not run out of food during the COVID-19 outbreak.
- US President Donald Trump has told the nation’s governors “you’re going to call your own shots” as he prepares to unveil national guidelines on when and how the country starts to recover economically from the coronavirus pandemic.
- New York residents will be required to wear face coverings when they are out in public and coming in close contact with other people, US state Governor Andrew Cuomo says
- Japan has announced a nationwide state of emergency, as coronavirus cases there continue to climb. Prime Minister Shino Abe made the announcement amid mounting criticism over his handling of the crisis. He’s been seen as too lax and too slow to respond. A previous state of emergency was in place, but that only included Tokyo, along with six prefectures. Health officials are concerned about the growing number of infections — now sitting around 9,000, with 200 deaths recorded. Under this state of emergency, local authorities have the means to encourage people to stay home and for businesses to close — but will have no legal power to enforce any restrictions.
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