Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, is a face we have all become very familiar with since the start of the coronavirus crisis, and he has outlined the sequence of events required for Australia’s on-premise venues to re-open.
Speaking on Channel 9’s A Current Affair, Professor Murphy said the population will need to continue to act responsibly as restrictions are lifted and large community outbreaks are avoided. He also said that the new COVIDSafe app will be a particularly useful tool in monitoring the virus’ spread in Australia, and in helping the National Cabinet to form decisions about relaxing restrictions.
In terms of what it will take for bars, pubs and restaurants to re-open, Professor Murphy said: “Just good solid control and if earlier relaxations were not accompanied by further outbreaks and we are still under good control, and a period of time had lapsed where we could be sure that measures already taken hadn’t had an adverse effect. Because it takes about two weeks for any measures to have an impact.
“The most important thing is to get kids back to school and we need to monitor that and any other relaxations that might happen in the next few weeks. Then the National Cabinet would likely be looking at things two to four weeks after that and to re-assess what’s happening.
He added: “It’s still too early to tell [when venues will re-open], but you could imagine small numbers of people in a social distancing way in a restaurant. I think pubs and clubs are a bit more problematic but people are thinking about things in very different ways. There are things that will permanently change from now on, like hand hygiene – we are changing some of our basic human interactions.
“True social distancing measures we will only need to do until this virus is out of our lives whether by vaccine or any other way. Our priority is to keep Australians safe and return to as much normal life as possible when it is safe to do so.”
One of the measures introduced to help monitor the spread of COVID-19 in Australia is the new COVIDSafe app, which all Australians are encouraged to download. Contrary to fear-mongering spread by some conspiracy theorists, the app does not track your movements, it merely lets you and health officials know if you have come into contact to someone who has the virus and the day that happened. It will then be able to track which people you have come into contact with, and help prevent large and deadly community outbreaks.
So far 1.9 million Australians have downloaded the app and Professor Murphy said the target group for downloads is as many adult Australians as possible, and the more people who download it the more successful it will be – and ultimately the sooner the National Cabinet will be able to ease lockdown restrictions.
“The highest group of COVID-19 infections in Australia is in 20-29 year-olds, then the 30 year-olds and then 40 year-olds. They are the people who are getting the virus they are also the mobile people, so they really need to download the app.
“Younger people usually have milder symptoms and don’t realise they have it and that’s why and how they are spreading the virus.”
He added: “If we are going to release restrictions we have to test more broadly. Every person with a cough, a cold or a runny nose can now get tested. We also want to test a selection of the community who are healthy just to be sure we aren’t finding significant amounts of asymptomatic infection.
“The more confidence we can give the National Cabinet that we have the world’s best public health system, the more likely they are to want to gently and cautiously release restrictions.”
So it’s on us to do the right thing, be cautious, follow the guidelines, stay safe, download the app and practice social distancing so we can hopefully begin to look forward to the beginning of the end of this crisis.