The endless worries that were earlier choking the spirit seemed to wear down as the island nations geared towards reopening gradually. Australia and New Zealand so far have been a pioneer in the successful containment of Covid-19 owing through their swift actions and strict social distancing protocols. And the efforts finally seemed to be paying off as the countries set an exemplar for the other nations of the world. Meanwhile, after its strong struggle against the coronavirus pandemic, China is already back into action.
The countries triumphantly flattened the Covid-19 curve which most other nations failed to so in the first place. The prompt actions, along with widespread testing and public adherence have paid off well for the two countries who are embarking on the new journey of economic restoration. In the meantime, NZ President Jacinda Ardern said that the government is commencing the economic activities and not the social lives of the NZ people.
The lifting of the restrictions in Australia and New Zealand would be a gradual process, and the government would keep an eye on the infection scenario amidst the period. The government officials from both the countries indicated that the strict protocols would be back in place in case the Covid-19 case jumps up.
With this backdrop, let us have a closer look at the easing restrictions and how they are going to impact the lives of the people.
Australia Winding Back its Operations
Australia appears to be in a gradual emerging process from Covid-19 as it reportedly had the current growth rate of less than 1 per cent. The flattening Covid-19 graph has sent a positive signal to the country to gear up the operations. Meanwhile, the threat of the second wave of infection post the relaxations remains one of the major concerns of the officials. However, the government also seemed to be confident about handing the second wave of coronavirus in the country. Australian Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly hinted the possibility of the second infection round. At the same time, he stated: "If a second wave does occur, we'll deal with it quickly, and we'll respond to it."
Australia is differentially easing the restrictions in the different states based on the number of cases and the infection scenario. The states like Queensland and Western Australia would early-onset into the new eased restrictions compared to Victoria, which witnessed relatively higher cases and Covid-19 related deaths in recent times. NSW would see the public could access relaxed norms for the beaches such as Bondi Beach along with Bronte and Tamarama beaches on the weekdays.
The people in Queensland can go up to 50 kilometres from their homes post the restriction easing, effective Friday midnight. Meanwhile, NSW has cautiously expanded the limit of the number of the person on nor-work activities. However, Victoria, with new Covid-19 cases, would not see easing in the restrictions. Meanwhile, the state borders will remain closed to reduce the resurgence of the pandemic activity.
Border Restrictions to Continue in Australia
Despite the easing restrictions, the border restrictions are expected to stay in place in an effort to avoid further infection. The cases in the country had initially skyrocketed through people having travel history. Australia was quick to seal its international borders amidst the early infection signs despite the WHO call that insisted against the travel bans in the nascent period of the coronavirus.
The country regarding the global Covid-19 situation does not plan on opening its borders for the next three to four months. Regarding the decision, chief medical officer Brendan Murphy indicated that considering the international situation at present, the border relaxations by Australia would bring high infection risk to the country.
Australia, however, is considering opening the border for New Zealand, which also seems to be doing a splendid job in restricting the transmission of the virus. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton highlighted that given New Zealand is at a comparable stage as Australia in the face of Covid-19, the arrangements could be looked at with NZ.
New Zealand lifts Stringent Level-4 alert
Post the initial success in limiting the Covid-19 infection; New Zealand has moved towards relaxing restrictive norms to level-3, which became effective on 27 April midnight. The country is primarily focused on the balanced approach and would remain in Level 3 for two weeks and following the positive review would onset to Level-2 alert.
The process, as described by the NZ PM, was the gradual expansion of the social bubble, which would enhance the economic activities while limiting social contacts. While Arden said that NZ has "Currently Eliminated" the virus, the country should remain cautious about the second wave of infection.
In the Level-3 alert, the business activities not requiring direct contact will open with a sufficient degree of health and safety measures in place. The relaxed restrictions would also resume the construction activities in the country. However, the government has stated that businesses should reopen if the work from home is not possible. The social gatherings for weddings and functions are yet not allowed. Meanwhile, schools and non-essential services will remain closed. The retail purchases would majorly be contactless, and the dine-in restaurants will stay shut during the Level-3 lockdown.
The current relaxed restrictions are primarily directed at enhancing the level of the economic activity that has endured significantly in the face of Covid-19 restrictions and lockdown. The financial projections for the countries have lowered in the past two months, and the expected unemployment rate has climbed. The pandemic has devastated the travel and hospitality sector. Meanwhile, the other industries have also borne the brunt of the crisis. The gradual shift towards the normalised scenario is taken to boost economic activity while also avoiding the second wave of infection. The small and medium scale businesses can get in the process of gradually reviving their operations and increase the prospective cash flow. Meanwhile, the countries would keenly observe the second round of the infection that can backfire their original plans.