Scott Morrison says playgrounds may be reopened fairly soon. Picture Josie Hayden
Scott Morrison says playgrounds may be reopened fairly soon. Picture Josie Hayden

When playgrounds could reopen

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has given an indication of when playgrounds might reopen, as coronavirus restrictions gradually loosen around the country.

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.

One common question from readers was whether the National Cabinet would consider lifting the shutdown of playgrounds, which has been in place since March 30.

"It's something I know the medical expert panel is working through," Mr Morrison said.

He admitted closing playgrounds in the first place was a "difficult decision".

"I mean, we sort of wanted to keep them open, but the problem was how they were cleaned all the time, and it's also a place where parents congregate," he said.

"So, particularly at the time the decision was taken, we were trying to discourage people clumping together in groups. When you take your kids to the playground, you're often sitting there having a coffee, and you're catching up with other mums and fathers, or others. That's what you do.

"That wasn't seen as a safe way, as a thing where people might congregate.

"In schools, obviously there's playgrounds. But in a school, the medical expert panel felt, you could have greater confidence in the cleaning down of the surfaces and all of those things. For local governments to be able to do that at every single play equipment all across the country, there was just seen to be too high a risk.

"But look, I think it's quite possible in the not too near future that that might be able to be addressed, and I'm sure the kids will be happy to get back on the monkey bars."

National Cabinet meets on Friday, so we could have a clearer answer by the end of the week.

A playground in Mordialloc. Picture: Michael Dodge/AAP
A playground in Mordialloc. Picture: Michael Dodge/AAP

More broadly, the Prime Minister 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 coronavirus restrictions.

"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."

Originally published as When playgrounds could reopen

Another, at Ringwood Lake. Picture: Josie Hayden
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