Elective surgery will restart next week, after the Anzac Day long weekend, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday as Health Minister Greg Hunt suggested sport events could follow after mid-May.
Mr Morrison said Australia was "on the road back".
"We want to stay on the road back. And to do that we have got to move carefully," he said.
The national restrictions on movement and gatherings would remain till mid May. Professor Murphy said the national cabinet had asked for a long list of the risks and benefits of restarting a range of activities after that.
Mr Hunt said the limit on meetings of two people at a time was one of the first things to be considered, and community and professional sport without crowds was also "certainly in our thinking". Cafes and restaurants reopening was "probably a little further down the track". Mass gatherings and international travel would be harder still.
The national cabinet also called on aged care homes to allow visitors, saying it was "not acceptable, fair or compassionate for any residential aged care facilities to ban visits from carers and families".
And Health Minister Greg Hunt announced that Australia had reached its target of 7500 ventilators. Not all are full "invasive" ventilators for which people are sedated and intubated and the numbers are a little unclear. Mr Hunt said the government had acquired 260 invasive and 3000 non-invasive ventilators from Australian firm ResMed. Australia's intensive care units have previously reported having 2300 intensive care beds with ventilators with the capacity to more than double that number by harnessing ventilators used in other areas of hospitals.
The surgery restart covers all joint replacements, including knee, hips, and shoulders, all cataracts and eye procedures, endoscopy and colonoscopy, and post-cancer reconstruction. All screening programs - which were not supposed to be part of the shutdown - would also restart if they had stopped.
The resumption also covers dental and procedures such as fitting dentures, non-high-speed drilling and basic fillings. All procedures for children under the age of 18 are covered.
Mr Morrison said the new elective surgery rules, which covered all Category 2 surgery and some Category 3 procedures, covered about a quarter of activity in public and private hospitals. The changes would be reviewed on May 11 with the possibility of adding other procedures after that.
But the national stockpile of protective equipment would not be made available for elective surgery or dentistry, the cabinet decided.
Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said authorities were concerned about the lack of attention to non-coronavirus medical conditions over recent weeks.
"Some people are seriously disabled with hip and knee problems. Some people can't see because of their cataracts, some people need surgery and have been waiting for it and this is an opportunity in a safe and controlled manner to slowly restart," he said.
On aged care, Mr Morrison said the national cabinet was "very concerned about the impact of restrictions that had been put in place in aged care", with restrictions going further than had been recommended.
"There is great concern that the isolation of elderly people in residential care facilities where they have been prevented from having any visitors from loved ones and support people is not good for their well-being, is not good for their health," he said, issuing "a strong reminder" that people should not be "locked away in their rooms".
Residents should be allowed two visits a day from close relatives and support people in their rooms and should be able to sit in common rooms or outside.
"We would like as many freedoms to be extended to residents in aged care facilities as is possible," he said.
Stricter restrictions could be imposed where necessary but "should not be done from convenience".
Professor Murphy stressed that no one should go into an aged care home with the slightest respiratory symptom or tickle in the throat. But he said it was not reasonable "to lock poor residents away from their family".
"We don't want lots of visitors, we want limited visitors, no more than two a day and not for a very long period of time and with appropriate health screening and for visits to occur in a safe part of the facility. But it's not reasonable or fair to people who may have been used to getting their family coming every day, who may even have dementia in some cases, to be denied access to their families."
The Council on the Ageing and other groups representing residents welcomed Mr Morrison's stance, saying some homes had imposed inflexible and insensitive restrictions.
"We have heard too many stories of family barred from seeing their loved ones at the end of their lives," council chief executive Ian Yates said.
But the group representing aged care homes said decisions to restrict access had not been taken lightly.
"We have taken a very strong position in aged care because we are looking after vulnerable people," Aged and Community Services Australia chief executive Patricia Sparrow said. "We require further clarity from the government because the current restrictions are causing confusion and distress."
Mr Morrison also stressed that older people self-isolating at home could still receive visits from relatives, carers, "or a friendly neighbour".
On the resumption of elective surgery, Catholic Health Australia said it was seeking information about how hospitals would access protective equipment for non-coronavirus surgery.
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