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Big changes that will affect Aussie life in coming weeks

Australia has now reached the "third wave" of the coronavirus, the Prime Minister has declared.

First there was the "export phase", when the virus spread from Wuhan to countries across the globe. Then there was the "repatriation phase", when overseas travellers returned home to Australia bringing the virus with them.

Now Scott Morrison says we've reached phase three - dubbed the "community phase" - when community transmission is the biggest concern.

The new phase brings with it new challenges and the Government has announced some major changes that will affect Aussie life.

Here's what you need to know.

 

TESTING

Phase three will be all about testing and tracing, according to Mr Morrison.

The Government's plan is to "test extensively" so it can detect and isolate any clusters of the virus that might appear.

Anybody with cold or flu-like symptoms, such as a cough, sore throat or runny nose, will now be able to get tested, even if they haven't been overseas or in contact with a confirmed case.

"This will significantly expand the population of people tested. We're pretty confident that most of them will be negative, but this will give us a really broad reach of what we call passive surveillance," chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said yesterday.

"We're putting in place the world's best testing and public health and surveillance regime before we relax any measures. We want to be testing 40,000, 50,000 Australians a day if necessary, so that we can be absolutely sure."

Testing will be the main focus during phase three of the virus. Picture: John McCutcheon/Sunshine Coast Daily
Testing will be the main focus during phase three of the virus. Picture: John McCutcheon/Sunshine Coast Daily

The Government is also considering testing frontline workers even if they don't have symptoms.

"This is a very important pillar of how we will be dealing with this virus going forward into the future," Mr Morrison said.

 

GOING TO SCHOOL

The PM insists it is safe for children to go back to school, but each state is approaching Term two differently.

In the Northern Territory, all students are expected to physically attend school for Term two, and students in South Australia have also been encouraged to return.

But in New South Wales, families are still advised to keep their children home where possible. Students aren't expected to return to classrooms until May 11, when they'll start with just one day a week.

In Queensland, schools have now moved to an online learning model, which will remain in place until at least May 22. Public schools in Victoria and the ACT have also moved to online learning for Term two.

In Tasmania, most schools are open but children are still encouraged to stay at home if they can. School will not resume for students in the north-west until May 4.

In Western Australia, schools will reopen on April 29 for all parents and carers who choose to send their children. Kids who stay at home will instead be provided with distance education packages.

Some states have reopened schools as Australia’s curve flattens. Picture: Supplied
Some states have reopened schools as Australia’s curve flattens. Picture: Supplied

 

On Friday, Professor Murphy said there was no evidence of "significant transmission among children in schools".

"Most children who have contracted the virus in Australia have contracted it in the family home. They have not contracted it in the school environment," he said.

Mr Morrison added that the four square metre rule and the 1.5-metre distancing between students during classroom activities was "not required".

 

GOING TO WORK

If you're sick of working from home, there's light at the end of the tunnel.

Bosses should now be talking to their staff about when they can safely return to the workplace, according to Mr Morrison.

"In many areas, you'll see people starting to go back to work in their offices," Mr Morrison told radio station 6PR. "But it'll be different … I think people should have their built-in instinctiveness around the social distancing," he added.

National Cabinet has agreed on a set of "National COVID-19 Safe Workplace principles" to help people with the transition. But the PM has admitted many workers will not be able to return until schools reopen.

"I'm sure you'd know that if you're a parent at home, trying to work from home and you've also got the kids at home, and they're trying to learn, it's not working too well for you," Mr Morrison said.

"Your productivity isn't doing too well either. And so when we can get back to the point where we can have kids back at school, and we can get people back at work, then I think we're going to see that also lift our economy in ways that we very much need."

Your days of working from the comfort of your bed are numbered. Picture: iStock
Your days of working from the comfort of your bed are numbered. Picture: iStock

 

SOCIAL GATHERINGS

That big, post-virus barbecue you're planning will have to wait a while longer.

All non-essential indoor and outdoor gatherings are still banned. And while the exact restrictions vary from state to state, people also aren't allowed to have people over for gatherings.

But the Government's expert medical panel is now considering how some restrictions could be eased in coming weeks.

"These are some of the hardest ones - the larger gatherings and the larger social gatherings," Mr Morrison told radio station 2GB on Friday.

"Large groups of people getting together in social settings, that's where this can all go pear-shaped."

 

BEACHES, SPORT AND RECREATION

The message about people going to the beach remains clear - no large crowds, maintain safe distances and don't laze about on the sand.

On Friday, three popular beaches in Sydney were forced to close because too many people were breaking the rules.

But the Prime Minister has said he hopes to have people back playing outdoor sports by winter.

"Indoors, it presents more of a risk for obvious reasons. But outdoors, that'd be great to see that happen," he told 6PR on Friday.

The National Cabinet is expected to announce a set of national principles for sport and recreation by next week.

Beaches have begun to reopen in New South Wales. Picture: AAP/Bianca De Marchi
Beaches have begun to reopen in New South Wales. Picture: AAP/Bianca De Marchi

 

SHOPS

Australians can expect shops which decided to close - and those that were forced to - to gradually reopen over the next few weeks, according to the PM, though social distancing is still advised.

 

VISITING FAMILY IN AGED CARE

There have been some reports of families not being able to visit their loved ones in aged care homes during the coronavirus lockdown. On Friday, the PM said some facilities had gone too far.

"We left it to the discretion of aged care facilities to exercise their judgement on these things. And disappointingly, there have been a few too many cases where this has been a bit overzealous," he told 6PR.

"There can be visits to people in nursing homes and in aged care facilities. It can happen twice a day or thereabouts … It's for those who they would see regularly. So it might be a loved one, a carer, a support person who would normally be doing that.

"We're not saying there should be 20 people in their room and the entire extended family."

 

OVERSEAS HOLIDAYS

Earlier this week, Professor Murphy said Australia's international borders would remain closed for at least another three to four months.

"The international situation at the moment is such that any relaxation of border measures would be very risky," he told a senate committee.

"We've just recommended to the National Cabinet that we continue the very restrictive bans on Australians basically leaving the country unless there are exceptional circumstances, or anyone except Australian citizens coming back."

Overseas holidays will have to be put on hold for several more months. Picture: iStock
Overseas holidays will have to be put on hold for several more months. Picture: iStock

 

FACE MASKS

The current advice on face masks is that there's still no need to wear them if you're not sick.

"Wearing of face masks by the general population is not currently recommended. Should significant community transmission in Australia occur, mask wearing in public is an available option," the PM said in a statement on Friday.

Originally published as What the 'new normal' looks like



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