UPDATED: Northern Territory restaurants, pubs, cafes, and bars will be permitted to open their doors for business again by mid-May, but with certain restrictions in place until June, the Gunner Government said today.
By Friday at noon, restrictions will be lifted on public playgrounds, swimming pools and outdoor gyms, as well as on funerals and weddings, provided physical distancing guidelines are followed.
It’s also expected all Territory businesses will be make their own decision on whether to re-open by early June, as part of the Gunner Government’s “road map” back to reality from the coronavirus restrictions, that will enforce the need for businesses to have a COVID-19 safety plan in place.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner released full details of his plan, that will see pubs, cafes and restaurants operating by May 15 – but with restrictions including a two hour time limit in a venue and the service of alcohol restricted to the consumption of food.
The government said it will assist businesses in the development of their own COVID-19 saftey plans by making checklists and hygiene guidelines available on May 5.
“This will not create a new approvals process or red tape,” Mr Gunner said. “Businesses will be able to complete and submit the simple checklist prior to opening, with health officers making subsequent compliance checks.”
By June 5, remaining restrictions will be eased with the two hour time limit removed and TAB and all licenced gaming venues will be allowed to open.
The announcement to open more businesses and local playgrounds follows previously announced measures to open parks and reserves ahead of the upcoming long weekend.
The NT Government did not provide a full list of parks with its official announcement earlier this week, and it was later revealed that only Top End parks would open this weekend, drawing the ire of thousands of Territorians who inhabit the rest of the NT.
The Gunner Government has come under pressure from the Chamber of Commerce NT in recent days, who yesterday warned Mr Gunner that waiting six weeks for businesses to reopen would be too long a delay and costly for many struggling through the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
But the easing of restrictions will come with specific conditions, including limits on people in any given area, adherence to physical distancing regulations and new rigorous cleaning protocols at local establishments.
Mr Gunner’s office claimed he had already briefed Prime Minister Scott Morrison and will present his “road map” to national cabinet tomorrow.
The Territory’s external borders will remain closed for the foreseeable future, but internal border controls under the Commonwealth Biosecurity Act are set to expire on June 18. The decision to lift those will be made in accordance with health advice and after consultations with the Federal Government, land councils and remote communities.
The decision to lift certain restrictions comes after the NT experienced more than three weeks without a new positive coronavirus diagnosis. Of the 28 cases recorded, only three remained active as of Wednesday morning.
The government has previously said the lifting of restrictions will come with a “test, trace and trap” plan, the details of which have still not been completely explained.
This story was updated with current information available as of Thursday at noon.