Australia records ZERO coronavirus cases in four capital cities over the entire weekend – sparking calls for lockdowns to be eased
- South Australia, NT, ACT have no new cases of coronavirus over the weekend
- Western Australia has only one new case on Sunday, a man from the gold fields
- Slowing growth of the virus prompts calls to ease harsher lockdown measures
- Banning people from sitting in parks is not ‘biologically needed’ expert says
- Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID
Australia’s falling coronavirus infection rate has sparked calls for a loosening of lockdown rules, but experts warn restrictions must stay until after winter.
South Australia, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory all reported no new cases of coronavirus over the weekend.
South Australia, with a population of 1.76 million remained at only 81 confirmed cases as of Sunday evening despite a testing blitz of more than 5000 coronavirus tests across the state during the past two days.
Australian medical assistance staff (pictured) who helped passengers and crew on the cruise ship Artania waving goodbye as it left Fremantle, WA, on Saturday. New case numbers are slowing with just one new WA coronavirus case on Sunday taking the state’s total to 545
The state’s last increase was an uptick of one case on Friday.
SA Health Minister Stephen Wade said it was too soon to remove border controls but other restrictions would ease in the next few weeks, including for elective surgery.
‘The border control will not be the first wave of restrictions eased. We’re going to be very cautious as we ease back on these restrictions,’ he told ABC News on Sunday.
The Northern Territory, with a population of 245,600, had just 28 cases as of Sunday and no deaths.
Australian Medical Association NT president Rob Parker praised the NT Government for swiftly shutting the borders.
Infectious diseases expert Professor Peter Collignon tweeted this graph on Sunday morning saying the peak had been reached but restrictions would need to stay
Anyone entering the NT from overseas or interstate has to spend 14 days in quarantine in a hotel and must foot the $2500 bill themselves.
The ACT, with a population of just over 428,000, has gone six straight days without recording any new cases leaving the number of confirmed infections at 103 on Sunday.
Western Australia, with a population of 2.63 million, almost made it through the weekend, marking just one new coronavirus case on Sunday taking the state’s total to 545.
WA Health Minister Roger Cook said the 60-year-old man was found through contact tracing of a confirmed case and had tested positive in the state’s gold fields.
There were no new diagnoses in Perth, which joined Adelaide, Canberra and Darwin as cities that saw no confirmed cases over the weekend.
NSW Police move people from a park in Sydney’s east on Saturday. An infectious diseases expert has said this is biologically unnecessary and too strict as long as people are distancing
The cruise ship Artania departed Fremantle on Saturday after 400 crew and 11 passengers still on board completed a 14-day quarantine period, while on Sunday morning a flight carrying 58 remaining passengers and crew left Perth bound for Bangkok.
The vessel is the source of least 81 of WA’s coronavirus cases and 11 of its crew and passengers were still in Perth hospitals as of yesterday.
New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, Australia’s three most populous states, all recorded increases over the weekend, with the national total rising to 6612 cases nationwide on Sunday.
Australia’s pandemic curve has flattened with lower numbers of new infections, prompting hopes the lockdown restrictions may soon be eased.
The cruise ship Artania left Western Australia yesterday after the 400 crew and 11 passengers still on board completed a 14-day quarantine period
Passengers of the cruise ship Artania wave goodbye to medical support staff at Fremantle, WA, on Saturday. The Artania is responsible for at least 81 of Western Australia’s coronavirus cases
The rate of new cases has declined after Prime Minister Scott Morrison introduced tough restrictions on travel and gatherings on March 16.
The Prime Minister has said Australia needs to meet three criteria before the restrictions can be lifted.
Increased tracing and response capabilities and refined testing regimes are among the criteria.
Refined testing regimes, better contact tracing and better response capabilities at a local level are benchmarks that must be achieved before Australia’s National Security Cabinet can look at lifting the lockdown.
Mobile phone tracking with a coronavirus tracing app is one of the measures introduced to improve contact tracing, with the Prime Minister urging Australians to download the app voluntarily on Friday.
‘I know this would be something they might not normally do at an ordinary time but this is not an ordinary time,’ he said.
‘If you download this app you’ll be helping save someone’s life.’
Experts say the rate of increase in case numbers is slowing and some restrictions could be eased without causing new infections to take off again.
Australian National University Medical School Professor Peter Collignon said the epidemic curve had most likely peaked on March 27.
Australia’s coronavirus cases rose to 6612 on Sunday, but the rate of new infections is slowing
Police at Bondi Beach on Saturday. ‘Overzealous’ rules that are not needed for health may risk causing large numbers of people to rebel, an infectious diseases expert has said
The infectious diseases expert said Australia was experiencing low numbers of around 50 cases each day.
‘Hopefully this will go lower soon but we are likely to have an ongoing low tail of cases. Hence why some restrictions (eg crowds, bars) will need to stay,’ he tweeted on Sunday morning.
Professor Collignon said some states had put in place ‘overzealous’ rules that are not biologically needed, for example not being allowed to sit outside in a park.
‘Not only will this cause unwarranted and increased social, mental and economic harm, we run the bigger risk that substantial parts of our society in a few months’ time (our winter) might increasingly rebel against many restrictions,’ he wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald.
NSW Police issued 45 fines of $1000 each for breaching coronavirus restrictions in 24 hours on Saturday, including two men in their 70s fined for sitting in a park with others and a man fined for going to visit a friend.
Professor Collignon said New Zealand’s restrictions were tougher than Australia’s, with a complete lockdown similar to New York’s – but it did not appear to be doing better than Australia n the epidemiology curve.
‘While we both have thankfully reversed our epidemic curves, NZ has still higher per capita daily infection rates than Australia. So, I can’t see how its lockdown has been more effective than what we have done in Australia – with our comparatively less stringent restrictions,’ he wrote.
Professor Collignon cautioned that most of Australia’s restrictions would need to be continued until the end of winter at the earliest, with pubs and bars to be among the last places to reopen due to the risk of social mingling.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned on Friday that Australia’s strict social distancing measures would stay in place for months despite the slowing daily growth rate in cases.
WHERE TO GO FOR HELP
* Tax relief: if you have a debt to the tax office you can’t pay call the Australian Tax Office emergency support infoline on 1800 806 218
* Unexpected bills for essentials: don’t go to high-interest payday lenders. No-interest and low-interest loans of up to $3000 available from Good Shepherd Microfinance.
* Utility providers will negotiate a payment plan to keep the power, water and gas on – ring them
* Banks will make hardship provisions available if you are having trouble paying your mortgage – call your lender
* Set up a myGov account at my.gov.au so you can access welfare help online
* Go to Services Australia and use the payment and service finder to work out what help you can get
* Access up to $10,000 of superannuation early this financial year, see here
* The first $750 coronavirus supplement will go to those registered as on income support and eligible between 12 March and 13 April. The second $750 payment will go to those eligible and registered on 10 July. Check here
* The new coronavirus supplement of $550 per fortnight is being added to several welfare payments – check if you are eligible here
* A list of Services Australia phone numbers for different information lines from crisis payments to low income health care cards is here
* Visit the Services Australia and register for a Jobseeker Payment or call to register on 132 850
* Centrelink advance payments are available in some circumstances
* You can get rent assistance from Services Australia if you are on a JobSeeker payment.
* National Debt Hotline for free advice and support for those in financial difficulty 1800 007 007
* Ask your employer to register on the ATO website ato.gov.au to keep your job going during the coronavirus shutdown so you can get $1500/fortnight
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