Careful and calibrated, the plans include a return to school for some children in the coming weeks as well as allowances for slightly more business activity, more freedom to exercise outdoors and the potential for gatherings of more than two people.
In Sydney, a few beaches reopened for exercise on Monday, leading to the return of surfers. In Maroubra, a coastal southern suburb, lifeguards used megaphones to warn surfers, runners and swimmers to stay physically distanced.
Many who ventured out expressed relief and awe at what the past month had brought.
“I’m just kind of laughing,” said Paul Beswich, 55, one of many residents who welcomed the chance to go for a swim. “I’ve lived here all my life, and we’ve always been told that if you’ve got a virus, go flush it out in the water. Now we can.”
Australia and New Zealand have benefited from an early, aggressive response to the pandemic. In Australia, public health laboratories started building test kits in January.
As of Monday, the country had tested more than 422,000 people, and confirmed 6,619 confirmed and 71 deaths. None of its hospitals are overwhelmed. For eight straight days, the country has recorded fewer than 50 new cases, after a daily peak of nearly 500 on March 28. That was roughly when the government asked people to stay home, with the exception of essential activities, including shopping and exercise.
New Zealand’s restrictions were more severe, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announcing a total lockdown on March 25, asking New Zealanders to act as if they had the virus. The restrictions produced a result roughly in line with Australia’s. New Zealand has recorded just over 1,100 infections and 12 deaths after conducting 85,000 tests from a population of nearly 4.9 million.
Starting next Monday, it will begin to allow slightly more activity. Construction will be allowed to restart. Schools will reopen as of April 28 to some students, and funerals and weddings of up to 10 people could be allowed.