Canberra, April 23 (IANS) Australia will keep its borders closed for at least another three to four months as it believes it would be “risky” to ease travel restrictions in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s chief medical officer said on Thursday.
“We’ve just recommended to the National Cabinet that we continue the very restrictive bans on Australians basically leaving the country unless there are exceptional circumstances, or anyone except Australian citizens coming back,” Brendan Murphy said.
The officer told a senate committee investigating Australia’s response to the pandemic that “the international situation at the moment is such that any relaxation of border measures would be very risky”, Efe news reported.
The government issued a maximum Level 4 travel alert on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, prohibiting Australians from travelling abroad and subsequently closed its borders to foreign nationals, with the exception of residents and citizens.
Murphy said the first country to open its borders was likely to be neighbouring New Zealand, whose government has drawn global praise for its strict measures to eradicate coronavirus and has been flattening the infection curve.
Australia will begin to progressively relax its restrictions with the resumption of some non-urgent surgical procedures and the partial reopening of some popular beaches from next week.
Classes in schools will also start to resume gradually in some states and the Australian government is scheduled to review whether to resume some essential activities from May 11 although social distancing measures are expected to remain in place for a year.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the easing of certain measures implemented due to the pandemic would affect activities that are “low health risk and more high economic value”.
“My priorities are to get kids back to school, to get people back to work. That’s what my priority is,” Morrison said in a press conference in Canberra.
Australia has recorded 6,649 COVID-19 cases, including 74 deaths and 4,761 people who have recovered from the disease.
For more than a week, the daily increase in new infections in the country has been less than 50.