Australia ending COVID-19 lockdowns as it moves beyond emergency phase

Photo: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

At times nicknamed "Fortress Australia'', the country has had some of the strictest restrictions in the world since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Australia's chief medical officer however, said the "emergency phase" of its response was probably over.

Official figures show that Australia continues to record about 5,500 virus cases each day, despite being one of the world's most vaccinated countries.

The chief medical officer Paul Kelly said the country would see "future peaks" of the virus, but it currently had "very low" numbers of hospital admissions and aged-care outbreaks.

The Australian Medical Association opposes the change, saying those who pushed for it are not "scientifically literate" and are putting lives at risk.

Australia had closed international borders for around two years and imposed strict limits on movement around the country. Mandatory isolation had been one of the few restrictions remaining.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said most existing government payments for people who have to miss work because of COVID-19 would also be scrapped. While casual workers and those in high-risk areas like aged care or health will still be able to get financial support.

"It was always envisaged that these measures were emergency measures," he said.