What does the end of lockdown look like?

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What does the end of lockdown look like?

As the spread of coronavirus gradually slows, politicians and medical experts around the world are setting their minds to what comes next.European cou

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As the spread of coronavirus gradually slows, politicians and medical experts around the world are setting their minds to what comes next.

European countries including France and Spain have set up expert committees to plan how restrictions will be relaxed to allow life to safely resume.

The same discussions are taking place Down Under where the national cabinet is planning the ‘road out’ from the ‘suppression phase’ into the ‘recovery phase’.

So what could life after lockdown look like? 

Experts say it will involve a gradual relaxation of restrictions combined with mass testing to identify and isolate the sick and find out who has already had the virus.

If transmission rates increase again and threaten to overwhelm the bolstered healthcare system, certain restrictions may have to be re-imposed. 

Australians could be living in that state of limbo until a vaccine is developed, which could take 18 months.

Staggered release of restrictions 

In a report for the Germany-based Ifo Economics Institute, a dozen academics describe how the fight against coronavirus can be sustained over a long period.

They argue that social and economic restrictions should be wound back slowly and gradually rather than removed all at once. 

The first rules to be relaxed should be the tough social restrictions which ban people from leaving their homes, the researchers say.

The first rules to be relaxed should be the tough social restrictions which ban people from leaving their homes, the researchers say. Pictured: Sunbathers in Perth on March 26

The first rules to be relaxed should be the tough social restrictions which ban people from leaving their homes, the researchers say. Pictured: Sunbathers in Perth on March 26

The first rules to be relaxed should be the tough social restrictions which ban people from leaving their homes, the researchers say. Pictured: Sunbathers in Perth on March 26

Sunbathing in groups of no more than two (with better social distancing than this) may be allowed again within weeks if coronavirus infections keep trending down

Sunbathing in groups of no more than two (with better social distancing than this) may be allowed again within weeks if coronavirus infections keep trending down

Sunbathing in groups of no more than two (with better social distancing than this) may be allowed again within weeks if coronavirus infections keep trending down

On March 31, Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and the ACT ordered residents to stay at home except for shopping, exercise, work and school and medical reasons.

These rules could be relaxed to allow low-risk behaviour such as sunbathing and shopping with good social distancing.

Then businesses such as gyms and auction houses could be allowed to re-open, giving thousands of furloughed employees the chance to get back to work. 

Eventually, businesses that see lots of people gather in the same space such as casinos and cinemas could re-open with social distancing rules – but nightclubs, concerts and sports games could be last on the list because of the risk.

After that, it could still be some time before travel restrictions are totally lifted. 

A long queue of passengers waiting to check in for a flight, including some wearing protective face masks at Sydney International Airport on March 20

A long queue of passengers waiting to check in for a flight, including some wearing protective face masks at Sydney International Airport on March 20

A long queue of passengers waiting to check in for a flight, including some wearing protective face masks at Sydney International Airport on March 20

It could still be some time before travel restrictions are totally lifted. Pictured: French nationals queue to enter Sydney's international airport to be repatriated back to France on April 2

It could still be some time before travel restrictions are totally lifted. Pictured: French nationals queue to enter Sydney's international airport to be repatriated back to France on April 2

It could still be some time before travel restrictions are totally lifted. Pictured: French nationals queue to enter Sydney’s international airport to be repatriated back to France on April 2

Professor James Wood, from UNSW’s school of public health, told Daily Mail Australia: ‘I think they will keep the travel bans and quarantine in place at least until the European and North American epidemics have subsided because that’s where almost all our cases have come from.

‘You can’t expect the epidemics in Europe and North America to pass for two to three months. And then the issue is that it’s everywhere else in the world now.’

The authors of the Ifo report say the restrictions should be lifted in different areas at different times, depending on the transmission rates.

They also say restrictions could remain in place for the elderly and the vulnerable. 

Mass testing 

As restrictions are lifted, Australia’s testing regime will have to ramp up even further to carefully monitor the spread of the virus.

Anyone who tests positive would have 14 days of home isolation and would only be allowed out after a negative test. 

Their recent contacts could be traced and also isolated as has proved successful in South Korea and Taiwan.

The authors of the Ifo report said the monitoring of positive patients could be improved by an app which could require them to answer a daily questionnaire as well as monitor their heart and respiratory rate, fever and oxygen saturation.

As restrictions are lifted, Australia’s testing regime will have to ramp up even further to carefully monitor the spread of the virus. Pictured: Drive-though testing at Bondi on April 6

NSW health authorities have set up additional COVID-19 testing centres in Sydney's eastern suburbs. Pictured: Testing in Bondi on April 6

NSW health authorities have set up additional COVID-19 testing centres in Sydney's eastern suburbs. Pictured: Testing in Bondi on April 6

NSW health authorities have set up additional COVID-19 testing centres in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. Pictured: Testing in Bondi on April 6

Extensive testing would be able to quickly identify any local outbreaks and restrictions could be introduced to slow them down if necessary.

Experts in Australia have already said that restrictions will likely need to be turned on and off.

Professor Peter Collignon of ANU told the ABC today: ‘We are going to have humps and bumps’.

Furthermore, antibody tests – which are yet to be rolled out – could find out if some-one has already had the virus and is therefore probably immune.  

Antibody testing could be conducted randomly on large swathes of the population, according to authors of the Ifo report.

People who are immune could be given wristbands or certificates to exempt them from any social restrictions – although such a move would be controversial because researchers are not agreed on how long immunity lasts.  

Face masks mandatory 

Measures will remain in place to slow the spread of the virus to make sure the health system is not overwhelmed.

These would include social distancing and regular hand washing and could extend to everyone wearing masks in public.

Measures would include social distancing and regular hand washing and could extend to everyone wearing masks in public. Pictured: A woman with a mask at Bondi Beach on 3 April

Measures would include social distancing and regular hand washing and could extend to everyone wearing masks in public. Pictured: A woman with a mask at Bondi Beach on 3 April

Measures would include social distancing and regular hand washing and could extend to everyone wearing masks in public. Pictured: A woman with a mask at Bondi Beach on 3 April

The authors of the Ifo report write: ‘Although the spread of the pathogen cannot be prevented, it can probably be effectively contained by the widest possible use of oronasal masks.

‘Even if these masks are not virus-tight, they can greatly reduce the likelihood of transmission by retaining droplets of symptomatically or asymptomatically infected persons.

‘Therefore, the production and distribution of masks must be immediately and massively increased.’ 

ABC health reporter Dr Norman Swan said today: ‘If we had an unlimited number of surgical masks, it probably would make a difference wearing them in public because it would stop the asymptomatic people spreading the virus to others.’   

SOCIAL DISTANCING LAWS EXPLAINED STATE-BY-STATE: HOW TO AVOID GETTING CAUGHT OUT

Queensland

Gatherings are restricted to two people, with residents only allowed out of their homes for a few essential reasons. 

This includes buying food or essential goods, getting a medical treatment or engaging in physical exercise. 

You can also visit a terminally ill relative or attend a funeral.

Students are also allowed to attend childcare, school, college or university.

From April 3, the state’s borders will be closed to everyone except residents and essential workers.

New South Wales

NSW officials are also enforcing the two-person limit, with residents legally obliged to stay at home unless they have a ‘reasonable excuse’. 

This includes travelling to work or school, buying food or other essentials, exercise and medical reasons.

It is left up to police officers to decide who will get the fines, with the maximum being an $11,000 fine or six months in prison.  

Victoria 

The state has also brought in the two-person limit inside and outside the home – not counting pre-exisitng members of the household.

Its chief medical officer Dr Brett Sutton confirmed an exception would made for people visiting their boyfriend or girlfriend if they lived separately. 

Otherwise, people are allowed to leave the house for one of five reasons – shopping for food, work and education, care reasons, exercise or other extenuating circumstances. 

Australian Capital Territory

The ACT is also enforcing the two-person limit, but people are allowed up to two guests inside their homes – only if there is at least four square metres per person.   

It also only allows people to leave home for essential reasons, including shopping for essentials, medical reasons, exercise, work or study.

Offenders are being issue with warnings, but may get a fine if they are found to be breaking the rules again.

Western Australia 

WA is advising people to stay at home but not enforcing the restrictions. 

As well as closing its borders to non-residents, the state has also introduced fines for people who cross out of their region.

Nine regions have been carved up, and people cannot move between them for anything but an essential reason.

This includes going to work, medical appointments, school or other types of education.

Drivers are also allowed to transport freight, and people can go to a shop outside of their area if the essentials are not available closer to home.  

Northern Territory 

In NT, police are still enforcing a 10-person limit rather than just two people.

But chief minister Michael Gunner warned it may take further action if people don’t stick to the rules.

All non-essential arrivals in the state must self-quarantine for 14 days, and people are not allowed to visit remote communities.

Tasmania

Tasmania also has brought into law the two-person limit, with residents only allowed to leave home for essential reasons.

This includes shopping, exercising, and going to healthcare apppointments. 

Going to a vet is also allowed, as is going to school or caring for another person.  

Arrivals must self-isolate for 14 days. 

South Australia

SA has also stuck to the 10-person limit, with $1,000 on-the-spot fines for people who have a larger group.

Again, all arrivals into the state must self-isolate for 14 days.  

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