MELBOURNE, Australia

As coronavirus restrictions are eased around the world, Australia too aims to get the country back to work. 

The National Cabinet finalized on May 8 a three-step plan to “gradually remove baseline restrictions and make Australia COVID-safe.”

“Australia has so far been highly successful in ‘flattening the curve’. The number of new COVID-19 cases in Australia each day is very low. We can now begin to take careful steps to ease some of the restrictions that have helped us suppress the spread of this virus,” the statement read.

Under the plan, states and territories can make decisions to their individual circumstances and local conditions.

In this respect, Western Australia, Tazmania and Southern Australia on Monday began to apply the first step of the roadmap which focuses on “carefully reopening the economy, and giving Australians opportunities to return to work and social activities.”

It allows gatherings of up to 10 people, up to five visitors in the family home and some local and regional travel.

While people can still work from home if it works for both the employee and the employer, they can go out to shop, visit restaurants, cafes, libraries, playgrounds and community centers.

The state of Victoria will begin with the easing on May 13 while New South Wales and Queensland on May 15.

The next step of loosening coronavirus restrictions builds on this with gatherings of up to 20, and more businesses reopening, including gyms, beauty services and entertainment venues like galleries and cinemas.

The final step of the normalization will see a transition to safe ways of living and working, with gatherings of up to 100 people permitted. These arrangements will be the “new normal” while the virus remains a threat.

It will allow all interstate travel, while nightclubs, food courts, saunas and bathhouses shall also open.

Though Australia did not specify when it would open its borders to rest of the world, the third step gives a green light for cross-Tasman, Pacific Island travel and international students travel.

Australia has so far reported 6,947 cases with 97 deaths. At least 6,163 patients have recovered.

New Zealand to move to Alert Level 2

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also announced lifting virus-related measures in phases. The country will move out of Alert Level 3 on Wednesday.

Under the first phase of Alert Level 2, gatherings of up to 10 people are permitted. This applies to wedding ceremonies, funerals and religious ceremonies, gatherings at home, and each group within a cafe or restaurant.

“Life at Alert Level 2 means we can resume many of our everyday activities — but we have to do so safely,” the instructions at the official COVID-19 online portal read.

Until May 21, venues like cafes, restaurants, bars and clubs are restricted to opening for dining only.

Most businesses, early learning services, schools and tertiary education facilities will also open.

People who are probable or confirmed cases of COVID-19, or who are a close contact of a case, will still have to self-isolate for 14 days, or until cleared by a doctor. Those arriving from overseas will continue to be placed in managed-isolation for two weeks.

Even regional travel has been permitted “if you follow good personal health measures.”

This is a temporary measure that will be reviewed on May 25.

The country has so far confirmed 1,497 virus cases along with 21 deaths and 1,386 recoveries.

*Writing by Merve Aydogan in Ankara

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