Western Australia's social gathering, dining and regional travel restrictions are to be relaxed from May 18, the state's Premier Mark McGowan announced on Sunday.
Following Friday's release of a national framework to guide Australia into economic recovery, the Premier and Health Minister Roger Cook addressed media on Sunday to explain how this would be implemented in WA: via a four-phase plan whose progress will be contingent on its success.
Mr Cook announced no new cases had been found overnight, leaving the state total at 552, with only seven active. Four of these were in hospital, with one in intensive care. COVID-19 testing clinics were quiet, with just 256 people swabbed on Saturday, but the health system stood "prepared and ready" for new cases.
"Our health service is very well equipped ... but we need to do our part. Social distancing is even more important now. It is vital we open up our state and get WA back to normal."
Phase 1: The government's four-phase plan had commenced already, Mr McGowan said, following the relaxing of some restrictions from April 27. This phase was aimed at allowing families and friends to stay connected and included the soft start to Term 2 across schools, the measures to allow 10 people to gather, and the resumption of home opens.
Phase 2: Take effect from Monday, May 18, giving families and businesses time to prepare.
New allowances from May 18
Non-work gatherings: Indoor and outdoor, capped at 20 people.
Dining out: Cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars, community clubs and casino can have a maximum of 20 seated dine-in patrons, counting both those inside and outside, with staff on top of that, as long as they can still observe the 4-square-metre rule. A pub can only serve a drink with a meal. Reopening pubs just for drinking will be considered for a later phase; sitting in a smaller group is considered to reduce capacity for interaction between patrons, according to medical advice.
Recognizing some businesses will not have the space to accommodate 20 people while still observing the 4-square-metre rule, the government will this week communicate with local governments on a temporary arrangement to relax the relevant laws to help restaurants expand their alfresco areas. Cafes and restaurants would be encouraged to expand alfresco boundaries where possible.
Weddings and funerals: capped at 20 attendees indoors, 30 for outdoors.
Places of worship, community facilities and libraries: reopening, capped at 20 attendees.
Non-contact community sports: capped at 20 people, indoor or outdoor. Yes, people can kick a ball to each other. They are encouraged to keep such equipment as clean as possible.
Fitness classes: capped at 20 people, indoor or outdoor. Only those with minimal shared equipment such as yoga or dance (no spin classes).
Public pools: capped at 20 patrons per pool, 1 indoor and 1 outdoor. Further rules apply.
Retailers: encouraged to reopen in accordance with the 20-person, 4-square-metre rules.
Employees: encouraged to return to work unless unwell or in a vulnerable category as previously defined. If businesses feel they can do this safely before May 18 it is up to them, but if staff are vulnerable they should be encouraged to stay home. The 20-person rule need not be observed but employers were expected to continue to observe the increased hygiene, distancing and vigilance practices.
The relaxations were targeted at businesses that would stimulate the most possible employment with the least possible risk.
All businesses reopening will need to complete an official COVID-19 safety plan with more details to be released shortly.
Social distancing must still be observed.
Mr McGowan said he understood the restrictions until now had been inconvenient and challenging and he thanked WA for complying.
Phase 2, from Monday, May 18, the number of bordered regions would be reduced from 13 to four. Travel would be allowed within, but not between them.
South West-Great Southern-Wheatbelt-Perth-Peel
Restrictions on remote communities would remain in place.
Allow tourism and hospitality to resume to some degree, Mr McGowan said, but it would likely be another month before Perth people could travel north.
Health services were further apart the further north you went, he said, and there were more vulnerable communities in the north.
The idea of waiting a week was for police to reallocate their personnel and allow people and businesses to prepare.
Another week would also give the opportunity for any infections not yet known about to be detected.
Phase 3 would likely begin in mid-June, with details to be finalized in coming weeks, depending on infection rates, Mr McGowan said.
They were likely to include further relaxations of the restrictions on social gatherings, cafes, weddings, funerals, restaurants, regional travel, pubs, playgrounds and outdoor gym equipment, skate parks, beauty salons, cinemas, gyms, indoor sports, health clubs, real estate auctions, zoos, galleries, museums and concert venues.
Phase 4 would be assessed and finalized at a later date.
Western Australia's hard state border would likely be the last restriction lifted.
Rottnest would remain a quarantine center for the time being.
The Premier asked people to continue to be patient, with announcements regarding the further phases to be made soon.
Opposition leader Liza Harvey welcomed the announcement and congratulated the people of WA for their efforts.
“But we can’t be complacent and undo all that good work, so it is critical that we all continue to be vigilant with social distancing and healthy hygiene,” she said.
“The next step is for the Premier to immediately let all West Australians know what his jobs plan is so we can get more people back to work to stimulate the WA economy, because this health crisis is now a jobs crisis.”
WA remains in a State of Emergency.
For the latest advice, information, copy and resources, go to:
WA's social, dining, regional travel restrictions loosen from May 18 Young - https://www.watoday.com.au/national/western-australia/gatherings-of-up-to-20-regional-travel-restrictions-loosened-from-may-18-20200510-p54ril.html
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