Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a three-step COVID-19 recovery plan but health authorities warn it will be a “very cautious and wary” journey.
“We could lose that battle that we have won so well so far,” chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy told reporters in Canberra this afternoon.
“You only have to look at the nightly news and see what is happening in really good countries with good health systems like Australia, where they let this virus get out of control, unfortunately.
“We have managed, we’ve been lucky to control this virus and we want to keep that control. So while we relax some of these measures cautiously, every Australian has to do their bit.”
WHAT MUST BE DONE
Prof Murphy was asked today whether the country would “see a change in powering through a cold at work”.
“I think we will see a permanent change in that cavalier attitude of going to work when you’ve got a cold or a flu,” he said.
“And I think that will be, even if COVID is gone – and we don’t know whether it will be fully gone from society – that will help with flu seasons and help with general health in the community.
“I think that one of the two permanent changes I can see forever is good quality hand hygiene, and that ‘stay at home if you’re unwell’ mentality. I think we’ve all been guilty of that at various times, I know I have. We’re all going to have to change that mentality.”
Prof Murphy said there should be “no more heroics” of battling through sickness in the workplace.
“That’s off the agenda for every Australian for the foreseeable future. Please,” he said.
He said the lessons learned during the crisis must not be forgotten, such as physical distancing, maintaining good hand and respiratory hygiene, and “all of us have to be very careful as we move forward”.
“No matter how mild your cold or your cough, stay home when you’re unwell, and please get a COVID test,” he said.
“That’s the best way we’ll find these hidden cases of the virus in our community, is if every single person who has any respiratory symptoms gets a COVID test and stays home.”
Prof Murphy said people are changing their behaviour, noting groups of 10 should observe distancing when training in a football field or gathering in a park, and parents should pack sanitiser and wipes when they take their children to the playground.
Workplaces must enforce the hygiene and social distancing measures, he said, as the health response focuses on testing, tracking and responding to outbreaks, considered inevitable due to increased movement, larger gatherings and social activities.
THE SITUATION TODAY
Prof Murphy said we have “very low case numbers” – under 6900 across the country since the pandemic began.
“But the virus is still there, it’s still in our community,” he said.
“That’s why, despite our very good position, we’ve got to be very cautious and wary with our next steps.”
He said step one, the most “well defined” of the three so far, is a “very cautious, early reopening” of the country.
“Step one is tentative, baby steps into normalisation,” Prof Murphy said.
Mr Morrison said while they are cautious first steps, they are “important first steps”.
“You can stay under the doona forever and you’ll never face any danger,” he said on Friday.
“But we’ve gotta get out from under the doona at some time. And if not now, well, then when?”