Strict measures for at least another month

Australians have been told it will be at least four weeks before the easing of strict restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Before any measures are scaled back, federal and state leaders want crucial benchmarks met to ensure the nation could handle a spike in cases.

This includes a broader testing regime, better contact tracing through a mobile phone app and a greater capacity to respond to local outbreaks.

The form of those local responses is on display in northwest Tasmania, where there are fears an outbreak among health workers may have spread to three nursing homes.

Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein has announced there will be roadblocks and police checks of people moving around the region to ensure strict rules on travel are enforced.

“We need to ensure that we contain the virus … that we get on top of this and we shut it down,” he told reporters on Friday.

It’s been revealed a healthcare worker who tested positive for the virus did shifts at three aged care homes as well as the two hospitals in Burnie that are at the centre of the outbreak.

No virus cases have been confirmed at the homes but one resident with mild respiratory symptoms is expected to get test results back on Friday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that worker’s actions had been “very unhelpful”.

“We’ve had someone down there not tell the truth to contact tracers about where they’ve been and who they’ve been with,” he told Triple M Hobart.

“And that means a lot of people have been put at risk in northwest Tasmania.”

Mr Morrison is spruiking a contact tracing app – still under development in Australia – as a key part of the government’s moves to easing restrictions on travel and gatherings.

He hopes some parts of the economy could be restarted in mid-May if the testing, tracing and response capacity goals are met.

“This is the simple deal: if people download the app and more people have got it, the sooner we can start easing off on some of these restrictions,” Mr Morrison said.

However, he expects social distancing measures to remain in place until a vaccine is available.

Mr Morrison said the economic impact of the global financial crisis a decade ago would be nothing compared to COVID-19.

“This thing is going to hit us like a truck,” he told 3AW radio.

But he’s ruled out introducing a coronavirus levy to help repair the budget.

Meanwhile, the federal government has moved to underwrite critical domestic airline routes in a bid to stop the aviation industry from collapsing.

But it won’t bail out Virgin Australia, with Mr Morrison saying he won’t stand in the way of any commercial solution.

He also suggested transport workers dip into their super to keep the airline afloat.

Australia has more than 6500 cases of coronavirus, including more than 3700 people who have recovered.

The death toll has reached 63.

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