Australia’s two most populous states, responsible for 65 percent of the nation’s coronavirus cases, are edging toward easing social-distancing restrictions after Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged them to start reopening the crippled economy.New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney on Sunday that the state would ease its lockdown from May 15. This would include permitting indoor gatherings of 10 people, which will enable retailers, small cafes and restaurants to allow access to some customers, albeit with strict social-distancing rules.“We need to fire up our economy, we need to get people back into jobs, we need to see some semblance of normality come back,” she said. While the state reported just two new virus cases in the past 24 hours, down from highs of about 200 a day about a month ago, Berejiklian said “we have to keep our vigilance” and holidays within the region would remain banned. The two most populous states have been more cautious amid recent outbreaks in a Sydney aged-care home and a Melbourne meat plant, which have been responsible for most of the nation’s new infections this month. Australia recorded 16 new cases of the virus on Saturday, a daily rise of 0.2 percent, bringing the total to 6,929.The lockdown has taken a heavy economic toll: unemployment is poised to double by July to about 10% and the nation is veering toward its first recession in almost three decades. Morrison is seeking a balance of containing the virus and lifting restrictions that are costing the economy A$4 billion (US$2.6 billion) a week.Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Sunday the Australia’s strict social-distancing measures, border closures and strong testing-and-tracing regime had put the nation in a good position to combat expected clusters of new virus cases as the lockdown eases.“As we move back to work, to normality, some things cannot change,” he said in a Sky News interview. “We shouldn’t be near people and we have to get the advice and encourage people to have the testing.”Topics : In Victoria, Premier Daniel Andrews is expected to announce some easing of restrictions on Monday, News Corp. reported Sunday.Australia’s three-stage plan for reopening, announced by Morrison on Friday, is designed to be implemented by the eight states and territories at their own pace. Western Australia state on Sunday said that from May 18 it will allow indoor gatherings, including in restaurants, of up to 20 people.Morrison is aiming for completion of the three steps by the end of July, putting the nation at the vanguard of developed economies emerging from the crisis. Australia has avoided the scale of sickness and death that’s ravaged countries including the UK, US and Italy.New South Wales and Victoria, the engine rooms of the country’s economy, have been more hesitant to announce relaxations of lockdown measures than smaller states and territories, some of which have gone for days without recording new cases.