SYDNEY, May 6 (Reuters) - The Australian government is seeking ways to re-open locked down businesses as soon as July, as its success in containing the coronavirus outbreak allows it to focus on trying to regain a million jobs lost since mid-March.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed on Instagram that Queen Elizabeth had called him to congratulate Australia on its efforts to deal with the pandemic, and on the country’s ability keep horse races running while other sports stopped.
Morrison and state leaders will discuss health protocols at a National Cabinet meeting on Friday that could enable businesses to open in a “COVID-safe environment”, with the government saying the shutdown was costing the economy A$4 billion ($2.6 billion) a week.
“The lesson from history...is that the quicker you can get people back into jobs and off those unemployment queues, the better off the economy will be and the better off those individuals will be,” Treasuer Josh Frydenberg told ABC television.
There would be three stages to easing restrictions on social distancing for affected industries, with cafes, restaurants and retail expected to be among the first to be allowed to reopen.
Each state would move at its own pace with the common goal of having most of their economies rebooted by July.
So far on Wednesday, the state of Queensland had reported no new cases of COVID-19, while New South Wales had nine new cases, Tasmania 2 and Victoria 17.
Australia has had less than 7,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and has less than 1,000 active cases. Ninety-six people have died in the outbreak.
The resumption of business might also coincide with the opening of the borders between Australia and New Zealand, in what has been dubbed a trans-Tasman bubble, given both countries have significantly reduced infection levels and rates.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday joined an Australian national cabinet meeting to discuss the potential joint opening, but both governments have said it would take a while to work through. (Reporting by Wayne Cole; Editing by Michael Perry)