Prime Minister Scott Morrison has declared we are “not too far away” from having large sections of the economy reopen following the COVID-19 crisis.
But he is urging more people to download the COVIDSafe app, describing it as our “ticket” back to normality.
More than 2.8 million Australians have installed the app since it was released on Sunday night, far exceeding expectations.
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Mr Morrison says the app is an important protection for the country.
“I would liken it to the fact that if you want to go outside when the sun is shining, you have to put sun screen on. This is the same thing,” The Prime Minister said.
“Australians want to return to community sport. If you want to return to a more liberated economy and society, it is important that we get increased numbers of downloads when it comes to the COVIDSafe app.
“This is the ticket to ensuring that we can have eased restrictions and Australians can go back to the lifestyle and the many things that they previously were able to do and this is important.”
The Prime Minister argues that while Australia is sustaining a very low number of new cases, that is not the complete measure of success.
“Having a low number of cases but having Australians out of work, having a low number of cases and children not receiving in-classroom education, having a low number of cases and businesses not being open, having a low number of cases and Australians not able to be going about their as normal lives as possible, that is not what success looks like.
“This is the success we’re seeking, to be able to have the protections in place, to enable Australians to go back to as normal a life and economy as possible.”
Mr Morrison says National Cabinet will consider easing “baseline” restrictions in the week commencing May 11.
A number of States have already started easing some restrictions, which the Prime Minister has welcomed.
“That demonstrates to Australians that there is a dividend for them, for the way that they have been conducting themselves.”
The Prime Minister says international travel is one thing that Australians shouldn’t expect to return anytime soon.
“The risks there are obvious. The only exception to that, as I have flagged, is potentially with New Zealand, and we have had some good discussions about that, but outside of that, that is unlikely.
He’s also signalled it will be some time before Australians can attend sporting matches while there could be some flexibility for places of worship.
It comes as counselling services report a huge increase in demand because of the coronavirus crisis.
One million telehealth mental health consultations have now taken place since mid-March.
At least 50 per cent of all mental health consultations are now being down through telehealth.
The Prime Minister concedes the COVID-19 crisis has had a big impact on peoples’ mental health.
“The isolation, the stay-at-home has been important but it does come with an increase in anxiety and an increase in pressure on individuals, their mental stress and that also takes a toll.
“That is why it is important that we get these COVID-safe arrangements in place, so people won’t be constrained, as they have been, they won’t be under as much anxiety as they have been as a result of the isolation restrictions that have been necessary.”
CEO of the National Mental Health Commission Christine Morgan says it’s been a challenge for many people to stay at home.
“For those of us staying at home, and that is the vast majority of Australians, it is a pressure cooker. We are living
with our loved ones. That doesn’t mean it is easy,” Ms Morgan said.
Ms Morgan says there is also a great sense of loneliness for many Australians.
“For those Australians who live on their own, who actually cannot have that tangible reality of a hug from a loved one, we cannot underestimate the mental health impact that that is having on our Australians.
Support services are also reporting people seriously concerned about their job and housing security.
There’s also been an increase in calls to domestic violence support services from people feeling unsafe.
“I think this is a reality that all Australians need to address. I have said before that it is incredibly difficult to go behind closed doors to see what is happening in confined spaces,” Ms Morgan said.
“We know that this is happening, we know that people may be more challenged than normal to reach out for help, so I call on all Australians, keep your eyes alert for what may be needed.”
If you are in immediate danger call 000 now. If you require advice or assistance, the following services can offer counselling and support:
Lifeline 13 11 14 | visit website
Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636 | visit website
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 | visit website
MensLine Australia 1300 789 978 | visit website