Australia eases coronavirus restrictions on café service

Australian cafés are set to be allowed to reopen under the first stage of eased coronavirus restrictions in the country. The country’s cafés and restaurants have been limited to takeaway and delivery service since March.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the announcement in a press conference on 8 May, while unveiling the National Cabinet’s – a grouping of state and federal leaders – three-step plan to achieve a “COVID-19 safe economy and society”.

“[Step one] will see… retail and small cafés and restaurants reopening,” Morrison said.

“We have put Australia in a position to go forward. We have strengthened our health system and put the protections in place.”

State governments will move through these steps at their own pace, adjusting for the unique local circumstances and communicating this to their citizens. Morrison said the National Cabinet aims for the entire plan to be complete nationwide by July.

The Northern Territory and South Australia have already allowed cafés to resume service.

The Australian Capital Territory entered step one from midnight that night, however, café and restaurant reopening did not take place immediately.

Queensland will move into step one on 16 May. Western Australia and Tasmania will ease restrictions on 18 May.

New South Wales will allow cafés and restaurants to resume sit-in service for up to 20 patrons from 15 May.

Victoria has announced that no changes to cafés will be implemented until June, deciding a limit of 10 patrons was not viable following discussions with industry members.

“There should be no expectations of step one starting on day one, unless [the state or territory government] is already there,” Morrison said.

“In this plan, we walk before we run. We know we need to be careful to preserve our gains, but also know if we wish to reclaim the ground that we have lost, we cannot be too timid.”

Morrison said the Treasury estimates 850,000 jobs will be restored in the months ahead. Step one will allow gatherings of up to 10 people in public spaces, with a one-person-per-four-square-metre distancing rule in small cafés and restaurants.

“We know that means many cafés and restaurants won’t be able to open, but many that are doing take away may well want to put up enough distant tables to start just gently serving 10 people at a time,” said Chief Medical Officer of Australia, Brendan Murphy.

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