SYDNEY • Australia’s most populous state yesterday urged locals to continue working from home, despite schools reopening as the number of coronavirus cases slows.
Children returned to full-time face-to-face learning yesterday in New South Wales (NSW), which includes the city of Sydney. This allowed many parents to return to offices – although lawmakers urged those who could to stay home to avoid putting pressure on the transport network.
“I am very pleased that the system hasn’t been overwhelmed,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.
“People are listening, making informed decisions, and that is the way we would like it to continue.”
Reopening schools is a central part of reviving Australia’s economy.
Australia has reported just over 7,100 infections, including 102 deaths, well below figures reported by other developed countries.
With fewer than 20 new cases most days, Australian states are pressing ahead with a three-stage plan to remove most social restrictions by July.
With international borders likely to remain closed for months, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is also pressing locals to begin holidays locally to help support Australia’s tourism sector.
But state squabbles continue to simmer. While the federal government has devised a plan to reopen the national economy, the implementation is left to individual state and territory leaders, who come from opposing political parties and have different views on how much unrestricted movement should be allowed.
Around 120 million domestic overnight tourists spent a record A$80.7 billion (S$75.2 billion) last year, according to government data, accounting for almost half of all tourism spending.
The differences between states also threaten to delay reopening travel between New Zealand and Australia.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said both countries are developing protocols, but it would be unlikely to begin until Australia allows free domestic travel.
This comes as New Zealand eased curbs on the size of gatherings to 100 people from 10.
The authorities will reconsider the nation’s alert setting, now at Level 2, on June 8, with a move to Level 1 to be considered no later than June 22, Ms Ardern told a news conference following a Cabinet meeting.
Back in Australia, Mr Morrison’s management of the crisis has come into focus after it was revealed last Friday that an administrative error had vastly overstated forecast expenditure for a wage subsidy scheme for workers left unemployed by the shutdown.