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Australia will be back in business by July

The vast majority of businesses could be up and running in less than two months after the national cabinet approved a comprehensive set of health protocols to enable commerce to resume in a “COVID-safe environment”.

Declaring “we now need to get 1 million Australians back to work”, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the state and territory leaders agreed on Tuesday that when they next met on Friday they would lift restrictions in three steps with the aim of establishing “a sustainable COVID-19 safe economy in July 2020”.

Nev Power, Christian Porter and Scott Morrison outlining the new guidelines for reopening workplaces. Each state will move at its own pace with the common end goal of July. While not every business will be able to reopen, such as those that rely on international tourism, Mr Morrison agreed the aim was to have the overwhelming majority back on their feet.

He said the work done over the past six weeks to suppress the spread of the coronavirus while simultaneously boosting the capacity of the health system − as well as having 5 million people download the COVIDSafe app so far − “means that we are in a much stronger position to resist and deal with any increase in cases”.

“And that gives us the confidence to move into the space that we are now seeking to move into,” Mr Morrison said. “Just having a low number of cases is not a success, particularly when you have a lot of people out of work. “That is the curve that I’m looking to address now. We have had great success on flattening the health curve and that is great and we all wanted that, but it has come at a price and we have to now start balancing that up.”

The resumption of commerce could also coincide with the opening of the borders between Australia and New Zealand, which was discussed when NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern joined Tuesday’s national cabinet discussion.

Series of tools

That, too, could be in place by the school holidays in July and would benefit both economies by opening them up for reciprocal tourism and business. To facilitate the reopening of business, the government, working with the COVID-19 Coordination Commission chaired by Nev Power, has prepared a series of tools including a website which divides business and industry sector into 23 categories.

Each category contains safety protocols and other guidelines for operating safely in the COVID environment. In each case, social distancing, strong hygiene and international travel restrictions will be in place indefinitely. Enforcement will be a matter for each state and territory, as will the pace of reopening.

The national cabinet is expected to agree on the three stages of easing restrictions on Friday. Cafes, restaurants and retail are expected to be among the first to be allowed to recommence business. “Individual states and territories will determine the timeframe for graduating between steps and individual restrictions to remove,” the national cabinet said in a statement after Tuesday’s meeting.