The good news amid the bad

Talk of a return of some sports is intensifying, the medical advice is that we’re unlikely to catch COVID-19 a second time and restrictions are being eased on elective surgery. A triple whammy of good news to go with the dire economic outlook.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the low number of new COVID-19 cases and the extra availability of protective equipment meant it was possible to permit a “gradual restart” of elective medical procedures from next week.

And he is urging aged care facilities with extreme isolation measures in place to ease up.

There were 22 new coronavirus cases reported in the past 24 hours to Wednesday morning and two new deaths taking the total in Australia to 74, the Department of Health reports. And there are more than 2.5 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Speaking after Tuesday’s national cabinet meeting, Mr Morrison said that from next Monday, category 2 and some important category 3 elective surgery procedures could restart in public and private hospitals.

Category 2 covers cases needing treatment within 90 days, while category 3 are those deemed to require treatment in the next 12 months.

The easing will cover:

  • screening programs (cancer and other diseases)
  • post cancer reconstruction procedures (such as breast reconstruction)
  • joint replacements (including knees, hips and shoulders)
  • cataract surgery and eye procedures
  • endoscopy and colonoscopy procedures
  • IVF
  • procedures for children aged under 18.

More dentistry services will also be available from next week.

It is estimated that about 25 per cent of elective surgeries in private and public hospitals will be restarted with the situation to be reviewed on 11 May.

Mr Morrison said the easing was “an important decision because it marks another step on the way back. There is a road back”.

On the protection of Australians in aged care, the cabinet voiced concerns that some facilities were being too extreme by not allowing residents to have any visitors.

“There is great concern that the isolation of elderly people in residential care facilities, where they have been prevented from having any visits … is not good for their wellbeing, is not good for their health,” Mr Morrison said.

The cabinet gave a “strong reminder” that its earlier decision was “not to shut people off or to lock them away in their rooms.”

This decision was to allow a maximum of two visitors at one time a day, with the visit taking place in the resident’s room. Apart from that, residents should be able to move around the facility, cabinet said, unless there was an outbreak in a facility or in the area.

Meanwhile, federal health minister Greg Hunt says medical experts believe that a person who recovers from coronavirus is unlikely to catch it again.

“We had a paper prepared by the chief scientists and their on-balance judgment is it is likely to [provide immunity],” he said.

“It is not a guarantee. There is global research being done but their on-balance judgment is you are likely to have immunity.”

Are you seeing a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel? Are you concerned that a relaxing of restrictions will lead to a spike in infections?

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Written by Janelle Ward

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