‘Guinea pig state’ will be first to ease restrictions
A PLAN to create a "guinea pig state" to monitor the impact of the easing of shutdowns will be among exit strategies to be put to the National Cabinet.
Western Australia and South Australia - the mainland states with the lowest number of cases, lowest rates community transmission, plus likely to have fewer ongoing cases in the weeks ahead - have been identified as the likely locations.
Authorities believe that if the plan is successful it could potentially provide a road map for lifting economic and social restraints for Queensland, NSW and Victoria when it is clinically appropriate, highly placed sources have told The Courier-Mail.
It is understood the plan will be among a number of options to be presented to premiers and likely to be guided by national and individual state modelling due in coming weeks.
It is unlikely there will be simultaneous easing of restrictions across the country.
It could mean that some businesses may be able to reopen and social restrictions be eased in some states way before the initial six-month time frame identified.
However social distancing and self-isolation for those who come into contact with the disease will likely remain indefinitely until a vaccine or preventive deployment is available.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said yesterday Australia was in the suppression phase, but looking at the "road out" on restrictions.
"It is likely to be in steps and stages that we can test and reverse," he said.
"It's not going to happen yet.
"One of the happy challenges that we have as a consequence of the success of the recent weeks is that people are already looking beyond.
"We are very clear that we believe that this is a six-month process.
"That doesn't mean all of the restrictions are in place, and wherever we can, we will look at those.
"But for the time being, we need to consolidate, to suppress the virus, and to win that battle and the more successful we are, the faster we will then be able to take measures.
"And those measures will likely be in gentle steps on a staged basis.
"That's what's being thought through and planned and consulted on now."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week said community transmission remained a significant concern and flagged states could lift restrictions at different times.
"You will have some jurisdictions, some states and territories that might be in a position to move when others are not, then we will learn from the experience of those states that may have trialled things,'' Mr Morrison said.
"And we may see a number of trial-type of relief of restrictions at some point in the future and that would mean that in states like New South Wales or Victoria or even southeast Queensland that are more impacted that they be able to take this easing of restrictions with a bit more confidence.
"So the National Cabinet is working together very much on this and discussing the options that are available to them and really trying to help each other with the decisions that they need to make in each and every case."
While NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian yesterday surprisingly flagged lifting restrictions within weeks, highly placed sources believed that would be unlikely.
National Cabinet has asked the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee to provide it with a range of alternative scenarios.
Originally published as 'Guinea pig state' will be first to ease restrictions