Australia

'All very good news' but Paul Kelly urges caution ahead of Mother's Day

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly. Source: AAP

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly is urging Australians, particularly those over the age of 70, to "be cautious" as authorities move to lift coronavirus restrictions.

Australians over the age of 70 have been urged to take extra care as lockdown restrictions are slowly lifted in coming weeks. 

"For people over the age of 70, I would just urge caution about your own health and [reconsider measures like] having people over to your house," Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly said.

He acknowledged that Mother's Day on Sunday would present a challenge for families trying to comply with social distancing rules.

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Healthcare workers urge Australians to stay vigilant as COVID19 restrictions ease
Healthcare workers urge Australians to stay vigilant as COVID19 restrictions ease

"If you are feeling well and you really want to see your mum, I’m sure it is fine. But for elderly mums, just be a little bit cautious and probably keep that 1.5-metre distance for now.

"I know it is hard and we all want to cuddle our mums on Mother’s Day and a big shout out to all of the mums out there, but let’s just wait a little bit longer."

In New Zealand, hugs and visits to mums have been banned.

"We remain at level three and so if your mum is not in your bubble, then reach out over the phone or video," New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

"Send a wee local present, and make plans to catch up when it's safe to do so."

'Very flat curve'

The warning comes as the number of COVIDSafe app downloads reached 5.4 million. The government also released the app's source code overnight.

Professor Kelly says Australian states and territories will have access to the data from the app to conduct contact tracing from next week. 

"It is just a timing matter and by Monday everyone will have signed and [there will be] just a couple of steps to go through to allow the data to be used by the states and territories."

He says "a very flat curve" is being maintained with the number of new cases still low - only 16 in the last 24 hours. 

"So those figures are way less than what we were having even a couple of weeks ago and this is all very good news," Professor Kelly said, adding that the percentage of people testing positive had fallen under one per cent.

Four of the new cases are linked to the Cedar Meats facility in Melbourne, raising the number of cases in the cluster to 75.

An abattoir worker tested positive to COVID-19 on 2 April, but the workplace wasn't regarded as an exposure site because the employee had told health officials they hadn't been at work for weeks.

The national death toll stands at 97, with the number of confirmed cases at 6,920.

A 17th resident - Fay Rendoth - has died at the Newmarch House aged care facility in Sydney, although authorities say the death is not being attributed to the virus as the individual had recovered.

"Without going into personal details, we understand that the person had COVID-19, had recovered, had other illnesses and was elderly and died," NSW Health’s Dr Jeremy McAnulty said.

Sixty-nine people associated with Newmarch House have now tested positive for coronavirus, including 32 staff and 37 residents.

An independent external adviser was appointed on Friday to oversee operations at the aged care facility.

'No roadblocks in this roadmap'

State leaders are announcing their own plans on how they will implement the federal government's three-stage "roadmap" to lift restrictions. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlined the plan on Friday, saying the national cabinet of state and territory leaders would be meeting every three weeks to review progress. 

Professor Kelly said each jurisdiction had a different case load, meaning the timeline on implementation would differ. 

"This is a roadmap, we are all on the same road across Australia, it is just that different states and territories have had different starting points and they will be using that same roadmap but at slightly different speeds.

"I want to really be clear there are no roadblocks in this roadmap," he said.

Under stage one of the plan agreed by national cabinet on Friday, cafes, restaurants and shops are permitted to reopen, with public gatherings of up to 10 people allowed.

Libraries, community centres, playgrounds and fitness boot camps could also restart, along with auctions and local and regional travel.

Professor Kelly said there would be careful monitoring of the stage one rollout. 

"So we need to really keep considering where we are, and stage two will only happen if the stage one lifting of restrictions is successful.

"And once we can see that and if we continue to see the flat curve, then we will move to the next step."

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

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