Australians will be allowed to travel between most states and territories by Christmas, if a proposed COVID-19 recovery plan goes ahead.
In a National Cabinet meeting last week, the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory agreed to develop a new plan for Australia to reopen interstate borders by Christmas.
With Western Australia choosing not to commit to the plan, it was agreed the National Cabinet will no longer operate on complete, 100 per cent consensus.
“Seven out of eight states and territories want us to get back to that position in December of this year and I thank them for that commitment,” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Redefining COVID ‘hotspots’
Building on the three-step recovery framework released in May, the new plan will redefine what constitutes a COVID-19 hotspot.
“The idea of ultimately moving beyond a situation where you have hard borders, but you move to a situation where you can have a workable hotspot concept, then that is something we are going to give it our best possible go to define and to make work,” said Morrison.
Acting chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly has established the Commonwealth “trigger” for a COVID-19 hotspot in a metropolitan area as a rolling three-day average of 10 locally acquired cases per day and a rolling three-day average of three locally acquired cases per day for rural or regional areas.
“States, of course, will reserve ultimately the decisions they take, but all of those who have committed to this path have agreed that we should work hard to get that in its best possible form,” said Morrison.
The Commonwealth hotspots definition will also be used as a starting point for any future travel arrangements encompassing New Zealand.
Victoria’s reopening plan
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced a COVID-19 recovery and reopening plan over the weekend, that will see a gradual easing of restrictions across the state.
In a statement on 6 September, Andrews said he wants the state to be “COVID Normal” by Christmas time.
From 11:59pm on 13 September, metropolitan Melbourne’s stage 4 restrictions will change, including easing the curfew to 9pm to 5am, allowing two people or a household to meet outdoors for two hours maximum and allowing one nominated visitor for those who live alone.
Restrictions will also ease slightly in regional Victoria, allowing up to five people to gather together in outdoor public places.
“By moving from stages to steps, we’re giving Victorians a long-term plan for our path out of restrictions and into COVID Normal,” said Andrews.
“Importantly, we want the whole of the state to be at COVID Normal by the end of the year – making sure family barbeques, summer holidays and a trip to the beach can all still happen.”
Last week, the Premier said once restrictions ease even further, workplaces will be advised to create “workforce bubbles” to limit the number of staff in close contact with each other, which could include rostering staff on the same shifts and reducing staff working across multiple sites.
He also suggested changes will be made to work meetings and lunchtimes, such as avoiding enclosed spaces, opening doors and windows for airflow, moving tearooms and lunch breaks outside and conducting meetings and team catch-ups outdoors.