NSW is leading the country in the race to ease restrictions by upping the number of coronavirus tests administered each day to 8000.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced this morning that the increase in testing is part of the government’s wider plan to reopen the state.
“I want to stress today that I’m very pleased to announced NSW is now saying to anybody across the state, if you have symptoms, if you are worried you have COVID-19, if you have been in contact with anyone and you are concerned you have the disease, please come forward and get tested,” she said.
“We are increasing the testing to include everybody across the state, not just those who work with vulnerable people, not just those who live in those high-risk areas where we have had clusters but anybody across our state who has symptoms, who’s concerned they might have it, who has been in contact with someone who’s had it and especially those who work with vulnerable communities or are in close contact with many people, please come forward and get tested.
“We want to see the number of tests go up above 8000 everyday.”
In the past 24 hours, NSW tested 7200 people and had only seven new cases. The state’s death toll from the virus has reached 34 after a 79-year-old woman died at Anglicare’s Newmarch House early on Thursday morning.
It follows the death of a 92-year-old woman on Tuesday, and earlier deaths of a 93-year-old man and 94-year-old man.
Beaches in the eastern suburbs remain closed but Bondi Beach is expected to reopen with some restrictions after Anzac Day. Picture: Toby ZernaSource:News Corp Australia
In outlining the government’s plans to ease social distancing restrictions, Ms Berejiklian warned that lifting restrictions will involve some give and take.
“Part of that strategy is increasing the number of testing, making that more available to everybody across the state but also making all of us aware that if we do consider going forward in the future with lifting restrictions we also have to be prepared to practice social isolation because we know that cases will go up and people will need hospitals.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters on Thursday that any movement on easing restrictions could drastically increase Australia’s death toll if not managed carefully.
He said complacency could lead to Australia being exposed to soaring death rates sweeping Europe and the US.
Mr Morrison said Australia’s impressive numbers paved the way for a gradual relaxing of social and economic restrictions.
“But let’s not get complacent while our numbers are good,” he said.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says 7200 tests were conducted on Thursday with only seven new cases. Picture: Joel Carrett/AAPSource:AAP
European nations with smaller populations than Australia show the disease’s devastating capacity.
Among major developed countries France has a mortality rate 100 times of Australia, while in the US the figure is 50 times worse.
“This can happen in Australia if we’re not careful,” Mr Morrison said. “That is why Australians and our governments have been so careful to balance the needs to get our economy back to a COVID-safe level.”
Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy told a Senate inquiry Australia faces a permanent risk of a second wave of infections.
Federal and state leaders will undertake a critical review of economic shutdown and social distancing measures in three weeks.
Professor Murphy said international border restrictions would be the last measure eased, with the issue unlikely to be considered for three to four months.
Some elective surgeries have been restarted, while state and territory governments have put in place measures to return students to classrooms. Australia is also pushing for the World Health Organisation to be handed the same powers as weapons inspectors to deal with future pandemics.
Mr Morrison has lobbied US President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emannuel Macron over the issue.
More than two-thirds of the 6600 people who have been infected in Australia have recovered.