When Australia can return to ‘normal’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Australia will not get "fully back to normal" until there is a working vaccine for the coronavirus - but he wants to get "as close as we possibly can" over the next couple of months.
On Wednesday night, Mr Morrison joined news.com.au's political editor Samantha Maiden for a live interview to answer Australians' questions about the ongoing pandemic.
"The big question that most of our readers wanted asked is, when do we get back to some sort of new normal? Are we going to get back to normal life?" she asked.
"You've got a National Cabinet meeting on this Friday, and some of the restrictions are going to be lifted, so what can we expect?"
Mr Morrison was careful not to pre-empt the result of the National Cabinet meeting, but he did confirm Australia was moving towards an easing of the rules.
"Well, I don't want to prejudge any of those decisions that the premiers will make on Friday. And of course, every one of the states is in charge of what happens in their own states, ultimately," Mr Morrison said.
"But already have been quite a few changes we've seen to date. I mean, particularly in the western states, in WA and South Australia and then the Northern Territory, they've been making some big changes.
"We've seen, just in the last 48 hours, Queensland make some changes on schools. New South Wales made some changes about two people being able to visit other homes.
"You're going to see changes happen gradually. They're not all going to happen at once. And they'll continue to happen over the weeks and months ahead.
"But until there's a vaccine, then there isn't the possibility of us getting fully back to normal. But we want to get as close as we possibly can.
"That will take a couple of months, to get back to that position."
The position in question is what Mr Morrison refers to as a "COVID-safe Australia", where the virus is not eradicated, but is under control.
The Prime Minister stressed there would still be some cases of the virus at that point.
"When we get back to what I'd call a 'COVID-safe Australia' - which is what we're aiming to get back to, when a lot of the restrictions will be able to be pared away - there will still be cases," he said.
"I mean, it won't be eradicated. There will still be outbreaks.
"The goal is not to bring it down to zero. That's not a practical expectation. It is to ensure that we can keep on top it, that if there are outbreaks we can shut them down, that when people contract it we can isolate them, and we can ensure that the health system remains in a position to be able to respond.
"That way we can get the economy open and we can stay on top of the coronavirus."
Of course, while some Australians are eager to get out of their homes or back to their workplaces, others are worried about easing restrictions too quickly and risking a second wave of the virus.
"How do you reassure people that are worried you're moving too fast?" Maiden asked.
"Well, when we put these restrictions in place about six weeks ago or thereabouts, it was a very different time. It was a very different place," Mr Morrison says.
"I know it was only six weeks ago, but since then, we've been able to triple our ICU capacity.
"Since then, we've been able to get access to all the testing equipment we need so we can stay on top of any outbreaks, and move quickly when things occur in particular areas.
"Since then, we've been able to get the COVIDSafe app up and running, and there's over five million Australians' who've downloaded that. And that keeps individuals safe. I mean people often say, 'Why should I do this?' Well the number one reason is, it keeps you safe. It lets you know when you've been in contact with someone who may have coronavirus, and then you can take decisions.
"The COVIDSafe app helps you and your family first and foremost. And the more people who do it, the more that we can track down, when we're going back to more normal arrangements, we can fight against the virus and detect it.
"There's a lot more protections in place today than there were six weeks ago. And that's why we had to move so quick back then to shut so many things down.
"Now that we've got these protections in place, that means that we can operate at a much higher level than we had before."
Not back to normal, then. But gradually, over the next couple of months, we will move closer to it.
Originally published as When Australia can return to 'normal'