- The government has unveiled its three-step plan to lift coronavirus restrictions and reopen Australia's economy.
- The states and territories are empowered to move through the steps at their own pace, with a view to a reopening of most of the economy in July.
- Under the first phase, which Australia will move into now, restaurants and cafes will open while observing social distancing measures.
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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has unveiled Australia's roadmap to recovery, outlining a three-step plan of how COVID-19 restrictions will be progressively lifted over the coming months.
Under the plan, Morrison said, he expects the country to return to some semblance of normality in July.
"Today, we have put Australia a position to go forward," the prime minister said at a press conference on Friday afternoon. "We have strengthened our health system and put the protections in place."
"So with that work being done, today national cabinet agreed a three-step plan and a national framework to achieve a COVID safe economy and society," said Morrison. "And it is our goal to move through all of these steps to achieve that COVID-safe economy in July of this year."
The states and territories are empowered to progress through the three steps at their their own pace, but the prime minister expects the national economy to be largely operational by July.
Under the first step of the plan, which the government expects states and territories will move into soon, restaurants and cafes would open, and non-essential travel would be permitted within states and territories. Five visitors would be allowed in private homes and 10 visitors in businesses and public places. Libraries, community centres, playgrounds and exercise boot camps will also open.
The second stage will allow gatherings of up to 20 people, and will include gyms, beauty shops, cinemas, galleries and amusement parks. Some interstate travel will also be allowed.
The third stage would allow gatherings of up to 100 people, as well as the opening of nightclubs, food courts and saunas, and all interstate travel. Travel to New Zealand may be possible at this point, but overseas travel would likely still not be permitted, and Australia's borders would remain otherwise closed.
"Step one is cautious," said Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy in announcing the roadmap. "It's gentle. It's not doing too much at once. Because we're in uncharted territory."
"There's not many countries in the world like Australia that's in a position to start gently relaxing measures with such low case numbers. We don't want to lose the control we've got. We want to make sure that outbreaks that occur are managed and controlled."
Murphy also stressed that Australians must remain vigilant even as restrictions are lifted.
"No more heroics of coming to work with a cough and a cold and a sore throat. That's off the agenda for every Australian for the foreseeable future. Please," Murphy said.
"No matter how mild your cold or your cough, stay home when you're unwell, and please get a COVID test," he said.