PM outlines conditions for lockdown relaxation

17 April, 2020 by Andy Young

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that the current coronavirus lockdown will remain in place for at least the next four weeks, and has outlined the seven conditions surrounding any relaxation of the conditions.

The positive news from the PM is that new modelling has confirmed that measures put in place to suppress the virus have largely been successful in slowing and reversing the growth of cases in Australia.

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He said: “National Cabinet further noted that Australia was now in the suppression phase of the response, which will last for some time. Restrictions will be reviewed regularly and planning for the medium to long-term has begun. Over the following months further enhancements of the public health response capability will be implemented to allow future considerations of some relaxation of distancing measures.

“National Cabinet agreed to a framework for future actions to plan the pathway for next steps in responding to the virus and conditions for relaxation.

“National Cabinet agreed that any changes to the current measures must be underpinned by a strengthened public health response for case and contact identification and management, continued surge capacity in the healthcare system and a clear communications plan.”

Australian Health Protection Principal Committee’s (AHPPC) assessment is the precedent conditions required for change were unlikely to be in place within the next four weeks and cautioned against any material change in measures in this time.

The PM added: “National Cabinet agreed to baseline measures remaining in place for the next four weeks, with individual states and territories who have put in place extended measures beyond baselines, to consider these measures based on up to date data and circumstances.

“National Cabinet agreed to AHPPC advice on seven precedent conditions to any further relaxations, with work to continue over the next four weeks.”

The seven conditions are:

  1. Situational awareness of current measures and their impact – sophisticated surveillance of disease incidence and spread, health system status, public health capabilities, stocks of material and community adherence to public health measures.
  2. Finalised surveillance plan – enabled with adequate resources.
  3. A better understanding of the implications of the modelling and a better understanding of the characteristics and transmission of the virus.
  4. Complete maturation of public health capacity – including capacity to conduct testing more broadly; and public health workforce and technology for contact tracing, data collection and analysis.
  5. Advanced technology for contact tracing – the role of a mobile phone application should be wholly explored, as it could be a valuable tool in contact tracing if numbers increase and the application is widely taken up. This would act to complement and augment our current public health contact tracing strategies and enable scale-back strategies.
  6. Assurance of adequate health system capacity – should control measures fail, there must be assurance that the system will cope with any surge in cases, including the requirement for hospital beds, ventilators, PPE and ongoing workforce training.
  7. Assurance of supply lines for – PPE, pathology consumables, ventilators.

Leaders noted the AHPPC advice on international strategies being used to address COVID19 include an ‘eliminate’ strategy, ‘suppress’ strategy and ‘controlled transmission’ strategy and the National Cabinet agreed that Australia will continue to progress the suppression/elimination strategy until further notice.