The nation’s peak medical group says testing for COVID-19 in prisons, nursing homes, mental health facilities and schools will be crucial to prevent a deadly second wave of infections as social restrictions are eased.
The Victorian branch of the Australian Medical Association insisted that testing should become a regular part of post-pandemic life after Premier Daniel Andrews’ announcement that the state’s strict COVID-19 lockdown restrictions would be partially relaxed.
Changes to lockdown regimes will come into effect from 11.59pm on Tuesday. From that time, Victorians will be permitted to host up to to five friends or family members as guests in their homes.
The Premier also confirmed students will return to classrooms before the end of term two, with the details to be announced as early as Tuesday.
People who are black or Asian are more than 1.5 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white people, according to preliminary data from a huge new study in the UK.
The study suggests being black or from southern Asia is more strongly associated with dying from the disease than having chronic heart problems or asthma.
The study’s authors say governments around the world now need to recognise ethnic minority groups are at particularly high risk from the virus, and should take urgent action to protect them.
The study, led by the University of Oxford, is enormous: more than 17 million patient records in Britain were analysed, including those of 5683 people who died from COVID-19.
Many of the results were unsurprising. The study found age was by far the greatest risk factor, people aged over 80 being 12 times more likely to die from COVID-19. Being a man doubled the risk, while obesity was also a significant risk factor.
But the results for ethnic communities stand out.
Australia is on guard for a second coronavirus surge as states and territories begin to ease restrictions while South Korea, Germany and China grapple with outbreaks shortly after re-opening parts of their economy.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday that Australia would be tested despite protections being put in place, and warned against over-confidence as workplaces and schools start the long road back to normality.
South Korea reported a second daily surge of cases on Monday after re-opening bars and nightclubs in the popular Itaewon neighbourhood. Germany, which has the sixth-highest number of cases in Europe, saw a jump after retail stores were allowed to start trading.
China added more than a dozen new cases, including some from domestic transmission, and imposed a lockdown on a city on the North Korean border.
Australian state and territory governments have begun easing restrictions that could allow gatherings of up to 100 people by July, with pubs, restaurants and stores slowly allowed to reopen. The timetable is months ahead of the six months of tough restrictions originally envisaged by the Prime Minister in March.
Mr Morrison said the national cabinet was not completely certain of the implications. “That’s why we have to remain on our guard and that’s why the states are moving at their own pace,” he said.
Grandparents will meet their newborn grandchildren for the first time and baby cousins will share their first laughs as visitor restrictions ease in Victoria.
But families larger than five will not be able to visit others as a whole family unit under the new rules.
From midnight on Tuesday, Victorians will be allowed to have five visitors to their homes.
Even though health authorities are urging against hugs and kisses, loved ones will again be able to feel one another’s physical presence in a way video conferencing doesn’t allow for.
Felicity Williams has a five-week-old daughter who was born after strict social distancing orders were enforced. Baby Primrose, who was born four weeks premature, hasn’t been able to meet her grandparents, or her nine-month-old first cousin.
Ms Williams has felt isolated at home since giving birth as she was blocked from introducing her newborn daughter to her parents.
“Oh my god, I’m just dying to show them,” she said.
Authorities will keep a close watch on hikers in Tasmania’s national parks to make sure strict coronavirus social distancing rules are being followed.
The natural attractions were reopened on Monday, but residents are only permitted to exercise in parks within 30km of their home, and campsites and visitor centres remain shut.
The state government says parks will be monitored while there will no let-up of strict enforcement and policing of restrictions.
“We are on the road to recovery because we have all changed our behaviour, and we need to maintain that,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Jo Stolp said.
People are limited to groups of two in national parks except when with household members and must move on when they’ve finished exercising.
The coronavirus has killed so many people in Iran that the country has resorted to mass burials, but in neighbouring Iraq, the body count is fewer than 100.
The Dominican Republic has reported nearly 7,600 cases of the virus. Just across the border, Haiti has recorded about 85.
In Indonesia, thousands are believed to have died of the coronavirus. In nearby Malaysia, a strict lockdown has kept fatalities to about 100.
The coronavirus has touched almost every country on earth, but its impact has seemed capricious. Global metropolises such as New York, Paris and London have been devastated, while teeming cities such as Bangkok, Baghdad, New Delhi and Lagos have – so far – largely been spared.
The question of why the virus has overwhelmed some places and left others relatively untouched is a puzzle that has spawned numerous theories and speculations but no definitive answers. That knowledge could have profound implications for how countries respond to the virus, for determining who is at risk and for knowing when it’s safe to go out again.
There are already hundreds of studies underway around the world looking into how demographics, pre-existing conditions and genetics might affect the wide variation in impact.
Epidemiologists and health specialists have cautiously welcomed the state government’s easing of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, but they warn vigilance was critical in preventing a new wave of infections.
Victorians must learn to adapt to a new way of living, with infectious disease experts saying the elimination of coronavirus was unobtainable in the foreseeable future.
“The virus is still circulating, if we just open up fully at the moment, it will take off and we will have a second wave and it will be ugly,” leading epidemiologist Tony Blakely, from the University of Melbourne, said.
“Slowly and cautiously opening up now is conceding we are moving towards not complete elimination of the virus, but a suppression world, where we just learn to adapt and live with the virus.”
Countries that have eased restrictions, including Germany, South Korea and China, have already reporting a surge of cases once social distancing measures were relaxed.
The hobbies and recreational sports at the centre of a debate over whether Victoria’s social distancing rules were too strict will soon resume after Premier Daniel Andrews eased the state’s lockdown restrictions.
Banned since mid-March, golf, hunting and fishing are among the outdoor sports once again permitted from Wednesday, ending seven weeks of recreation frustration.
It has been a long wait, particularly for those who wondered why their chosen pastime wasn’t safe enough to pursue while activities like retail shopping were allowed.
Team sports played outdoors can also restart, although they are restricted to groups of 10 with 1.5 metres between people at all times.
Fisherman Bob Pearce hopes the fish have been lulled into a false sense of security with the lack of boats on the water.
“I think there’ll be a lot of people who will want to play a bit of catch-up,” said the member of the Albert Park Yachting and Angling Club.
Denmark has cut in half the physical distance at which citizens can stand apart, as the country takes a step toward ending restrictions.
The social distancing requirement has been reset to 1 metre from 2 metres, according to a statement late on Sunday from the Danish Health Authority.
Denmark is now in the second phase of a return to something resembling pre-COVID life, with all shops opening on Monday.
Restaurants and cafes will follow next week while cinemas, museums and amusement parks will open in June. (Primary schools have been open since April, with older students set to resume in-class tuition next week).
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has repeatedly said her government’s decision to impose tough restrictions early on played a key role in allowing the country to roll back its lockdown earlier than many others.
But Denmark’s borders will remain closed, with an update from the government due by June 1 at the latest.
Social distancing and handwashing are still the order of the day but socialising, in moderation, and fishing and golf are back in our tentative post-ISO world. With the number of COVID-19 cases relatively low compared with most other nations, the federal government has provided a three-step roadmap for states and territories to start carefully relaxing some restrictions on our movement.
And the states and territories have started following the roadmap already, with warnings that the usual “common sense” caveats remain.
“Regulation can achieve things but every individual has to do more than regulation,” says Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy.
So what’s changed in which states?
Our Explainer team has compiled a list of the old rules, the new rules, and when the changes occur, state-by-state.