Industry calls for unified COVID-19 rules

Andrew Brown |

Industry groups are leading calls for uniform COVID-19 rules across the country, as three jurisdictions eased their restrictions on Friday.

NSW, Victoria and the ACT all moved to scrap density limits and reinstitute singing and dancing in hospitality venues, while also reducing quarantine for unvaccinated international arrivals.

The changes come after Omicron case numbers plateaued across the country.

While restrictions have eased, the Australian Industry Group is urging national cabinet to create consistency on COVID-19 rules.

Its chief executive Innes Willox said the myriad of rules between the states and territories were creating barriers.

“We may be one, but we are still many in terms of our state and territory approaches to COVID,” he said.

“Bringing the country into line with COVID rules should be the top priority for the next national cabinet meeting.”

The ACT is easing its restrictions earlier than intended, following NSW’s decision to scrap some of its COVID rules.

Mr Willox said moves in which NSW, Victoria, Queensland and the ACT were working together on COVID measures should be replicated across the country.

“For our businesses operating across state lines, the hodgepodge of COVID rules that remain across the country create an unwelcome administrative burden,” he said.

“(The different rules are) a distraction from their main priorities of growing their operations as they contribute to our post-COVID recovery.”

Health experts have warned that while removing COVID restrictions for the time being was a sensible step forward, they could be reintroduced ahead of winter.

University of Melbourne epidemiologist Tony Blakely said new variants of the virus could emerge in coming months, but welcomed the eased restrictions.

“We are getting back to normality. It’s like a tabletop mountain – we’ve gone up the curve, we’re coming down, and as we come down, that’s the time you release these restrictions,” he told the Seven Network.

“There will be some little bumps on the way into winter with extra infection happening amongst those people who weren’t infected in the first wave, and also some of us whose vaccine immunity wanes.”

It comes as the Royal Australasian College of Physicians calls for the health and wellbeing of children to be one of the leading priorities for the COVID-19 recovery.

The college has sought a national task force to address the issues children and young people have experienced during the pandemic, as well as the appointment of a national chief paediatrician.

A 2021 study found 60 per cent of caregivers reported their child’s overall health and wellbeing had been impacted by pandemic restrictions.

The college’s president-elect and paediatrician Jacqueline Small said some of the impacts of the pandemic on young people were yet to be realised.

“Because of the pandemic’s more serious impact for adults, we’ve seen the health and wellbeing of children take a back seat, it’s time to put children first,” Dr Small said.

“There is an urgent need for a national recovery plan to help the nation’s children catch up from the setbacks of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

There were 36 COVID-19 deaths reported nationally on Friday, with 15 from NSW, 14 in Victoria, six in Queensland and one in the Northern Territory.

NSW recorded 9243 virus cases, Victoria had 6935, Queensland 5795, the NT another 1027, while there were 623 and 561 in Tasmania and the ACT respectively.

South Australia recorded 1479 local cases and Western Australia 194, as that state announced it would scrap its hard border on March 3.