Here are this week’s key developments in the coronavirus pandemic in Australia. This is Elias Visontay and it’s Friday, 4 September.

Progress, and disagreement, on state borders

All states and territories, with the exception of Western Australia, have agreed to a roadmap to reopening their hard border closures by Christmas.

Announcing the plan after Friday’s national cabinet meeting, Morrison said it would rely on a nationally consistent definition of a Covid-19 hotspot, with the commonwealth suggesting a trigger for consideration would be 10 locally acquired cases per day for three days, or 30 cases over three days, in a metropolitan area.

For a rural or regional area to be declared a hotspot, it would need to record three cases per day for three days, or nine cases over three days.

The Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, late on Friday denied that she had agreed to a nationally consistent definition of a Covid-19 hotspot.

Her comments follow concern from medical professionals after several reports this week of requests for urgent medical exemptions to enter and avoid quarantining in Queensland were denied.

A person wearing a mask rides an escalator at a shopping mall in the city centre in Sydney. Photograph: Loren Elliott/Reuters

Australia officially enters recession

Australia is officially in recession for the first time in 29 years, with GDP data released on Wednesday showing the economy contracted 7% in the June quarter.

The treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, said the “devastating numbers confirm what every Australian knows”.

“Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on our economy and our laws. It is nothing we have ever experienced before,” he said.

On Tuesday, legislation to extend the jobkeeper wage subsidy until March was passed.

Aged care

The government weathered a second successive sitting week where Labor’s attacks were largely focussed on its handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the aged care sector.

Morrison stood by his aged care minister, Richard Colbeck, despite repeated calls for his resignation from the portfolio, as resident deaths in the sector rise.

On Thursday, the Senate voted to censure Colbeck, who had previously been unable to recall how many deaths had occurred in aged care during the pandemic.

International arrival caps

Morrison announced a plan made in national cabinet to boost the strict international passenger arrival caps, however no details were outlined about how or if the limits – of 4,000 arrivals into Australia per week – will be increased.

This week, updated figures showed at least 23,000 Australians overseas who want to come home but can’t have registered their intention with the government.

The caps are designed to ease pressure on state and territories’ hotel quarantine regimes, and the government has remained firm in its argument that it will only lift the limits with the agreement of premiers and chief ministers.

Labor has called on the government to introduce more federal quarantine solutions, hinting at designated quarantine facilities in regional areas, similar to the effort to repatriate Australians from Wuhan and elsewhere at the beginning of the pandemic.

Earlier in the week, the government announced it would make further loans available to help with temporary accommodation, daily living expenses, and even flights home for those stranded.

Victorian roadmap

On Sunday, premier Daniel Andrews will announce a roadmap out of stage four restrictions, as the state’s second wave of Covid-19 is further contained.

Business leaders have revealed the government is using a four-step “traffic light” system to consult with them about the easing of restrictions, as the state’s daily average for new Covid-19 cases over the past week fell below 100 on Friday.

However, the full impact the virus has had on aged care is still becoming clear. More than 50 deaths added to the state’s tally this week occurred in previous months in residential facilities and were only reported in recent days.


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