A National Cabinet meeting on Tuesday allowed for the lifting of some restrictions on elective surgery after ANZAC day.

“This will not mean an immediate return to normal with elective surgery, but a gradual restart,” Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, adding that this would depend on the capacity and other constraints. That means that category two procedures would now be able to take place in the private sector, as well as selected category three and other procedures, including IVF as well as screening programs where they have ceased.

“One of the reasons why we have been able to do that, is the increase in the amount of personal protective equipment that we have been able to secure.”

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said the resumption of elective surgery is a “gentle, careful start of normalising”, and this is something which Health Minister Greg Hunt agreed with. “I would say now, building on what I said on the weekend, we now have a sustained and consolidated flattening of the curve. Less than 1 per cent growth in cases for nine consecutive days and over the last three days we have had averaged less than half a per cent of growth. This is a collective national achievement but every Australian has been contributing and I want to say thank you for what people have done. You have made this happen,” Mr Hunt said.

Restrictions on all visits to aged care homes would be lifted in states where they have been enforced to allow for two visits per day by close relatives and support people.

“We reviewed recent events in a number of aged care facilities and took the lessons from those cases and an important one is the finding was that we are very concerned about the impact of restrictions that had been put in place in aged care facilities over and above what was recommended by the National Cabinet on the residents in those facilities. There is great concern that the isolation of elderly people in residential care facilities where they have been prevented from having any visitors from loved ones and support people is not good for their well-being, is not good for their health and so the National Cabinet agreed that there needs to be a strong reminder that the National Cabinet decision was to not shut people off or to lock them away in their rooms,” Mr Morrison said, adding that elderly who are self-isolating in the community can continue to receive visits for compassionate reasons eg a friendly neighbour who regularly looks in on them.

He said that restrictions would not be lifted on community sport or any other type of events.

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Many jobseeker claims have also been processed – 517,000 since 16 March. “By the end of this week we will have processed as many jobseeker claims in six weeks than we would normally do in the entirety of the year,” Mr Morrison said.

“There is still work to do but having now eclipsed more than half a million people, that is obviously of great concern, that is half a million people who need that payment and support.”

Asked to comment on Virgin, Mr Morrison said he was encouraged by the fact that there are already 10 parties which have expressed interest in working with the administrator regarding Virgin’s future. “I think if we had not taken the actions that we have had and not demonstrated the patience that we have had then or we may have ended up doing is sending $1bn to foreign shareholders and that was never part of my plan,” he said.

The COVID-19 tracing app had also been approved by national cabinet “in principle” and will be released in the not-too-distant future, however a date has yet to be given due to the hurdles still necessary to clear up. Mr Morrison did outline its advantages. “Firstly it protects Australians in their own health and those of their own family by participating in this process did secondly, it helps other Australians to keep them safe and, thirdly, it ensures that we can more effectively get back to a more normal setting where we have widespread take-up of this app and we will say more about that when we are in a position to launch the app in the not-too-distant future.”

He clarified that the “app only collects data and puts it into an encrypted national store which can only be accessed by the states and territories. The Commonwealth cannot access the data, no Commonwealth agency at the national level, not government services, not CentreLink, not Home Affairs Committee not the Department of education, nothing. The Commonwealth will have no access to that data,” he said.

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Mr Morrison refused to comment on former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s book or interview on the ABC, preferring instead to look at the “bigger picture”, ie the coronavirus crisis.

He acknowledged that coronavirus restrictions are testing the patience of Australians but said we need to “stick to our plan” and show patience until markers are met, including a rate of transmission of less than one.