Federal government remains committed to social distancing after National Cabinet meeting

While the epidemiology curve for the COVID-19 pandemic has shown signs of flattening in Australia, the government has advised there’s no room for complacency after yesterday’s National Cabinet meeting.

With new Stage Three measures from NSW and Victoria coming into effect overnight, and with WA floating its own tough measures, the federal government reiterated its own commitment to “long-term nationwide maintenance and enforcement of the restrictions currently in place.”

The government has also acknowledged that the social distancing measures it had implemented will last for ‘at least six months”, mirroring the government’s open-ended expectation about the length of time the Australian community will live with the coronavirus.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy, advised that the country had achieved significant behavioural change and that the message to ‘stay at home unless doing limited essential activities’ is being heeded.

“Stronger adherence to social distancing and new quarantine arrangements for returned travellers will take a number of days to show maximum effect,” he said. “The biggest single concern remains the evidence of cases where there are no known local links.”

Leaders of the states and territories also strongly endorsed the $130 billion “JobKeeper” package announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenburg on Monday afternoon.

The wage subsidy scheme seeks to issue $1,500 to employees through business to ensure that Australians hold onto their jobs during the next six months, with Prime Minister Morrison forecasting that up to six million Australians would access the scheme.

Other outcomes from the meeting included updates on the processes guiding state-based social distancing measures and the management of vulnerable people in the workplace, workers in the aviation and maritime sector, as well as the arrangements for vulnerable travellers returning from overseas.

Issues regarding early childhood education and childcare, as well as commercial and residential rent, will be considered at the next National Cabinet meeting, to be held on Friday 3 April.

At the time of publication, more than 4,500 cases of COVID-19 have been detected, with 19 deaths across the country. More than 238,000 Australians have been tested.

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