26/06/2020 5:52 PM AEST | Updated 26/06/2020 5:53 PM AEST

Coronavirus In Australia: Social Distancing Restrictions Continue To Ease Despite Outbreak

PM Scott Morrison said states and territories on Friday had agreed to remove more social distancing curbs.

See the latest stories on the coronavirus outbreak. 

SYDNEY - Australia will continue easing social distancing restrictions despite an outbreak of coronavirus in one state, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday.

Victoria has seen 10 straight days of double digit new cases. It has about 200 of the country’s total of 270 active cases.

Although authorities are scrambling to contain the virus, including embarking on a massive testing regime and calling in military support, Morrison said states and territories on Friday had agreed to remove more social distancing curbs.

“All states are committed to continue on with the various plans that they have and they’re making,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

Chris Hyde via Getty Images
Village Roadshow Theme Parks CEO, Clark Kirby and Queensland Tourism Minister, Kate Jones speak to media outside Sea World on June 26, 2020 in Gold Coast, Australia. 

Australia has pledged to remove the bulk of the country’s social distancing restrictions by the end of July, although each state and territory are determining their own pace.

Australia’s international borders will remain closed, but the country’s chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, said Canberra would strengthen requirements on people returning from overseas.

Australia requires all locals who return to quarantine in hotels for two weeks. But about 30% of people in Victoria have declined a COVID-19 test before leaving quarantine, the state’s deputy chief medical officer said.

“We are going to start testing people on entry to quarantine and testing people before they leave quarantine,” Murphy told reporters in Canberra.

Matt Blyth via Getty Images
Singer Guy Sebastian and Prime Minister Scott Morrison speak during a tour of the Sydney Coliseum Theatre at West HQ on June 25, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. The federal government has announced a $250 million support package for the arts and cultural sectors to assist in economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding package includes $90 million in government-backed concessional loans to fund new productions and a $75m grant program that will provide capital to help Australian production and events businesses put on new festivals, concerts, tours and other events as social distancing restrictions ease.

Despite assurances from Morrison that Australia’s coronavirus curve is “flat”, Australia’s largest supermarket chain, Woolworths, on Friday introduced restrictions on toilet paper and kitchen towels across the country.

“We’re taking preventative action now to get ahead of any excessive buying,” said Claire Peters, managing director of Woolworths’ supermarkets division.

In March, Australia’s major grocers put strict limits on such purchases as shoppers stripped shelves amid fears of a coronavirus lockdown.

Chris Hyde via Getty Images
GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 26: Crowds line up to enter Seaworld on June 26, 2020 in Gold Coast, Australia. Sea World has reopened to the public with extra safety and hygiene measures in place following its temporary closure on 23 March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Visitors to Sea World must observe physical distancing rules and provide details for contact tracing purposes. Increased sanitisation of high touch areas throughout the park have been introduced along with contactless payments. 

Morrison has struck a bullish tone on reopening the economy as Australia heads into its first recession in nearly 30 years, insisting the country’s health system can cope with a rise in new cases.

Morrison on Thursday unveiled a A$250 million recovery package of grants and loans for the arts sector and said he would discuss the reopening of venues at Friday’s meeting.

Australia has recorded a total of around 7,500 infections, including 104 deaths, well below many other nations.

Reporting by Colin Packham.