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Australia plans to end most closure restrictions by July

8 May 2020 12:47 PM

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday that Australia will ease restrictions on social divergence in a three-step process, as the country aims to remove most of the restrictions by July and put about a million people back to work amid a reduction in coronavirus cases.

In March, Australia imposed strict social distancing restrictions and closed its borders.

With fewer than 20 new daily infections, Morrison said that Australian states and territories agreed on Friday on a road map to remove most restrictions.

Australia has had less than 7,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, fewer than 800 people remain ill with the disease, and nearly 100 people have died.

Under the first stage of the plan, restaurants and cafes that are currently limited to fast food services, but with a maximum of 10 customers at a time, will be allowed to reopen.

If no major outbreaks are recorded, the states and territories will move to the second stage where gyms, cinemas, and galleries will be allowed to reopen, but with no more than 20 clients at a time.

Morrison said that at this point, they would begin to allow some interstate travel.

Upon implementation, the third stage will allow gatherings of up to 100 people, allow employees to return to their offices and see the reopening of the nightclubs.

All interstate flights will be allowed, along with some limited international travel, including flights between Australia and New Zealand.

It is also possible to allow international students to return to Australia, but they will face two weeks in quarantine.

The treasurer estimated that the closure cost A$4 billion ($2.6 billion) a week, and the Reserve Bank of Australia predicted on Friday that the country would face its largest ever economic downturn, despite government pledges of A$320 billion ($203 billion) to ease the blow.

In its quarterly statement, the Reserve Bank of Australia expected the economy to shrink by A$2 trillion ($1.3 trillion) or 10% in the first half of the year, marking the first recession in three decades.

This despite the government's support for the wages of around 6 million Australians that kept them out of unemployment statistics. But it is expected that about 10% of the country's workforce will be out of work this year.

However, Morrison said that once the three-stage process is implemented, his government expects some 850,000 people to return to work.

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