The Aussie restrictions expected to be lifted last

Foreign travel, mass gatherings, large conferences and weddings will be the last restrictions to be lifted as Australia moves to end the COVID-19 lockdown University of Melbourne epidemiologists predict.

And they have warned that even though we appeared close to eradicating the virus in Australia that outcome is not guaranteed because there may be many asymptomatic cases we have not detected and eradication is a matter of luck.

The best approach to ending the lockdown may be lifting one restriction at a time, like opening schools or relaxing restrictions on public transport to test whether it leads to the infection spreading, epidemiologists Dr Kathryn Snow and Professor James McCaw said.

The lifting of restrictions may also vary among Australia's states and even between regions within the states, the experts told an Australian Science Media Centre briefing.

There are indications the virus is under control in Western Australia and South Australia but it is still a problem in Sydney.

However, we must be aware the in regional areas like Cairns even a small number of infections can be devastating.

In that town one infection took six health workers out of action Dr Snow said.

Before the restrictions can be lifted Australia needs more chemical reagents for mass testing and a robust surveillance system to track any hidden cases of the virus and get it under control if there is an outbreak, the experts said.

We do not yet have the resources to do that, they said.

Before the restrictions can be lifted we need blood testing to check for antibodies to the virus and a better surveillance system to track infected people and whether they were staying at home.

While there may be an argument to lift restrictions on camping because it is not a mass gathering the decision was complicated, they said.

People who went camping travelled and if they purchased fuel in small country town and there was a risk the traveller could transmit the infection within that town which would not have the health resources to cope.

Going to the beach for a swim by yourself had a different risk profile to hanging out at the beach with ten friends, Dr Snow said.

Originally published as The Aussie restrictions expected to be lifted last