Social distancing measures to continue for a year, says Australian PM

Canberra -- Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday said that social distancing measures will need to remain until a vaccine against COVID-19 is developed, which he said could take a year.

"Social distancing is something we should get very used to for the foreseeable future," Morrison said in an interview with the radio station 3AW, a transcript of which was published on his website.

He said that the measure of maintaining physical distance of at least 1.5 metres will not be relaxed "until there's a vaccine", which according to some estimates could take a year to 18 months, reports Efe news.

"It could be a year... But I mean, I'm not speculating about that," Morrison said.

On Thursday, Morrison announced that coronavirus restrictions will remain in place for another four weeks, a period during which parliament will resume, and would be eased gradually, although economic stimulus measures would last until September.

Morrison's government has imposed a series of measures in the wake of the pandemic, which limit gatherings to two people and urge citizens to stay at home unless shopping for essentials, for medical care or to exercise.

It has also suspended non-essential activities but kept schools and daycare centres open, while closing the borders to foreigners and imposing a 14-day quarantine on residents and citizens coming to the country from overseas.

The measures, which have been implemented progressively since March and have also been accompanied by a string of stimulus packages, including wage subsidies, have resulted in a decrease in the rise in daily cases to less than 50 in recent days.

He said that, for the restrictions to be relaxed, more testing to rule out coronavirus would be needed along with better tracking of a COVID-19-positive person's contacts and quick responses at the community level to stop the spread of the pandemic.

The Australian government is developing a mobile phone tracking app to fight the pandemic, which in Australia has produced 6,468 infections, with 63 deaths.

"If people take up this app, that means we have greater confidence that if someone gets the coronavirus, we can more quickly trace down their contacts of people who they may have infected. Now, if we can't do that, if we don't have that capacity, then we'll have to keep the restrictions in for longer," Morrison told the radio station.

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