Australia's coronavirus restrictions to stay for at least four more weeks, Scott Morrison says

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says coronavirus restrictions will remain in place for at least four more weeks and will not be lifted until Australia enhances its testing, tracing and local outbreak response capacities.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison gives a coronavirus update at Parliament House in Canberra.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison gives a coronavirus update at Parliament House in Canberra. Source: AAP

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says there are no plans to ease coronavirus restrictions for at least four weeks.

Mr Morrison said three main requirements would need to be met before rules could be changed: more testing, better contact tracing and quicker local reactions to outbreaks.

"We want to be very clear with Australians, the baseline restrictions we have in place at the moment, there are no plans to change those for the next four weeks," Mr Morrison said on Thursday afternoon.

The prime minister also reaffirmed there was a six-month timeframe for the government's coronavirus-related economic measures.

Mr Morrison said Australia was entering the “suppression phase” of its virus response.

“We are not in 'eradication mode', nor are we in the other mode where we see herd immunity approach. These are not the approaches we are following in Australia,” he said.

“We are not at the Sweden end or the New Zealand end, and when it comes to how we approach things, our data and information shows that in that phase we are doing relatively very well, especially over countries that are using even more extreme forms of lockdown.”

Mr Morrison said the policies he took to last year’s federal election will need to be revisited.

“Any sense of business as usual when it comes to the policy framework we had before the election will need to be reconsidered on the other side [of the virus].

“To make sure we can achieve growth that will be necessary for our economy to get people back into work, the economy back on track, it will be a different world on the other side of the virus. There will be many challenges.”

A trial return to parliament

Federal parliament will meet for its ordinary business in May, although it is likely to still be a cut-down version that practises social distancing.

Mr Morrison said the week-long sitting, yet to be agreed with the opposition, would be a trial.

"It is important that parliament goes about that work and we are in a position to do so," he said.

"So I look forward to parliament being able to resume and continue to do the legislative work that it does."

Since early March, politicians have only returned to Canberra twice for single sitting days called to deal with specific coronavirus-related legislation.

It abandoned six scheduled sitting weeks between March and August.

But Mr Morrison said that as the nation slowly moved towards a return to normalcy, it was important parliament did so too.

"But obviously we just need to trial how that is going to work," he said.

Logistical problems that need working out include the fact there aren't many flights running at the moment and several states have border closures in place.

The prime minister flagged the parliament would likely sit with fewer members physically in Canberra, so as to comply with social distancing requirements.

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.

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Additional reporting by AAP.

4 min read
Published 16 April 2020 at 4:08pm
By Tom Stayner