This week a recession was declared, new definitions on hotspots were created and national cabinet moved away from a consensus. Get on the bus to understand what happened this week in Australia's fight against COVID-19.
The recession we couldn't avoid
It's official: Australia is in its first recession in three decades.
Let's talk definitions. A recession is defined by two quarters of negative growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which is a key measure of an economy's health. In the March quarter the Australian Bureau of Statistics found GDP dropped by 0.3 per cent. On Wednesday, the ABS reported GDP went down by a whopping 7 per cent in the June quarter. This was the largest fall of the Australian economy on record.
"Our record run of 28 consecutive years of economic growth has now officially come to an end. The cause? A once-in-a-century pandemic," Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Wednesday.
National criteria for hotspots
On Friday national cabinet released a standardised criteria for defining a hotspot. Before this, states and territories made their own rules on declaring hotspots.
Let's break the national criteria down. The trigger for declaring a hotspot was different between metropolitan and rural areas.
For metropolitan areas, it's 30 locally-acquired COVID-19 cases in three days; or a daily average of over 10 cases. For rural and regional areas a trigger for consideration is nine locally-acquired cases over three days; or a daily average of three cases a day.
However, if an area met this trigger it did not mean it was automatically characterised as a hotspot.
After the trigger was reached, there would be a conversation between the Commonwealth, the chief medical officer and the chief health officer of the relevant state or territory. This would look into a number of factors about the area of the outbreak, such as epidemiology, the geographic spread of the cases, the demographics of the population, and public health capacity.
After this the CMO and the CHO of the affected jurisdiction would agree on the hotspot. The hotspot area would be defined, and it may be declared in a wider area than where the initial cases were recorded.
Once the hotspot had been declared, this would be communicated to governments and the public. States would be notified by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee. Then the Commonwealth would initiate or continue support to the hotspot. The hotspot would be reviewed by the national incident room 14 days after the hotspot was declared.
Borders to open before Christmas
All states and territories except Western Australia will aim to open their borders before Christmas. This marked a change in the national cabinet moving away from consensus-based decision-making.
"I made it clear that Western Australia will not be agreeing to a hot spot model or a hot spot definition which replaces our successful border controls," Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan said.
"Western Australia has always avoided setting an arbitrary deadline on borders. A date will be set when our health advice recommends it, but that might be some time away."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has respected Western Australia's different path.
"Not everyone has to get on the bus for the bus to leave the station. But it is important the bus leaves the station," he said.
"Western Australia has a very different border and a very different economy than most of the other states and territories.
"There are not large border towns ... along the Western Australia border. Their economy is of much greater scale than the South Australian and the Tasmanian economies."
Not all experts believe reopening borders will be the key to ending Australia's economic woes.
Public policy think tank the Grattan Institute released a report on Thursday night urging governments to aggressively push for zero cases before opening up.
The report warned opening borders or rolling back restrictions too soon would create a "yoyo" effect, wreaking havoc on public health and the economy.
"Getting cases down to zero - and keeping them there - will be hard work - but it will save lives and enable the economy to recover more quickly," lead author and Grattan Health Program director Dr Stephen Duckett said.
What is happening in Victoria?
As predicted last week by Victorian chief health officer, professor Brett Sutton, Victoria did drop into double digits. The state recorded 73 new COVID-19 cases on Monday and 70 on Tuesday. The mood was not celebratory, with concerns spiralling around lower levels of testing. On Tuesday, it was reported the daily number of tests in Victoria was 10,153 - the lowest since June 23 when 8149 tests were reported. "That's not enough. I know there's more respiratory illness out there," professor Sutton said.
High levels of deaths were reported this week, but this was caused by a lag in reporting. Many of the deaths occurred in June and July in aged-care settings, but were not classed as COVID-19-related at the time. Victoria's COVID-19 death toll was now 650.
The much-contested bill to extend the state of emergency passed without amendments by 20 votes to 19 in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Much of the success of the bill was credited to Victoria's Greens Leader Dr Samantha Ratnam coming to Spring Street to vote, despite being on maternity leave.
"Obviously, I wasn't intending to be here this week because I'm still on maternity leave but I felt like this decision that we have before us in the Parliament was just too important for the health and wellbeing of Victorians," she said.
Premier Daniel Andrews was expected to reveal a roadmap to reduced restrictions tomorrow.