‘Early mark’: Lockdown to be relaxed early

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced coronavirus lockdown restrictions will be relaxed early as Aussies have "earned an early mark".

Mr Morrison announced the National Cabinet would now discuss easing restrictions in its meeting next Friday.

"Australians have earned an early mark," he said after today's National Cabinet meeting.

Mr Morrison said the National Cabinet would meet twice over the next week before announcing relaxed restrictions next Friday.

He said health experts had provided 15 conditions that Australia should meet before restrictions could be relaxed. Australia has already met 11 of the 15, he said.

Despite the move to relax restrictions next week, Mr Morrison said a "critical" part of that would be how many Aussies download the COVID-19 tracing app.

"It's like not putting on sunscreen before going out into the blazing sun," he said.

"Our numbers may be low but coronavirus is still out there."

The Prime Minister said today was another "very productive" National Cabinet meeting.

He said there were around 1000 active cases left in Australia and attention would now turn to fixing the crippled economy.

"We need to restart our economy, we need to restart our society. We can't keep Australia under the doona," he said.

Mr Morrison said the unemployment rate was expected to rise to around 10 per cent as more than a million people applied for Centrelink help.

More than 650,000 businesses have registered for JobKeeper and a further 950,000 people have applied to access some of their Super - totalling $7.9 billion.

He described the numerous government benefits as "putting a floor under our economy".

Originally published as 'Early mark': Lockdown to be relaxed early

More coverage below.

 

No 'hard evidence' on virus lab allegation

Mr Morrison said the government "hasn't seen any hard evidence" that coronavirus was created in a lab in Wuhan before being inadvertently spread across China.

US President Donald Trump claims to have evidence the virus originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Mr Morrison said their investigations continued to point to the virus coming from a wet market in Wuhan.

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said it's hard to know if China was keeping information from the rest of the world but "we weren't at the time of the view that information was being withheld from us".

"The real turning point was the 19th or 20th of January when we were told that there was sustained human-to-human transmission," he said.

"In the early days it was thought it was only going from animals to humans."

 

Conditions Australia needs to meet before next Friday

Mr Morrison said the most important final condition Australia needed to meet was uptake of the CovidSafe app.

"One (condition) that remains uncertain is the degree to which we can get the CovidSafe app out to the community," he said.

The PM apologised for "sounding like a broken-down record" but maintained it was important.

The final few conditions Australia was hoping to meet before next Friday included the supply of gowns and gloves.

"But we don't see that as an unresolvable hurdle," he said.

 

Relationship with China 'not a one-way street'

Mr Morrison has addressed growing tensions with China after the PM called for an independent global inquiry into the spread of coronavirus.

"We work every day on our relationship with China," he said.

"We have a comprehensive strategic partnership with China. It is a mutually beneficial partnership. It is not a one-way street. And it's one that is, of course, important to Australia."

 

COVID tracing app is 'how we can be reopened'

Mr Morrison and Mr Murphy have again implored Australians to download the COVID tracing app.

More than 3.5 million have already downloaded it but Mr Morrison said "many millions more" will need to.

"It's over to you Australia," he said.

Workplaces or employees will not be required to download the app but it is encouraged.

"It's done in the basis of encouragement in the national public health interest and I have to say in the national economic interest. it is our path back to download the CovidSafe app," he said.

Mr Murphy said health authorities had greatly improved the way they were contact tracing - but app downloads needed to be higher.

"We need the app uptake to be higher before we can say that that final piece in the jigsaw puzzle of contact tracing is there," he said.

 

'Pretty convincingly we have flattened the curve'

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy has showed his coronavirus modelling, pointing out "pretty convincingly we have flattened the curve".

Mr Murphy said the most important part of Australia's road back was testing.

"We cannot afford to have an outbreak that starts a second wave…Our testing has to be very, very good," he said.

"The most important thing in testing is anyone who has any respiratory illness must get tested…a cough, cold or any respiratory symptoms…get tested and don't go to work."

Australia currently has 6,765 cases of coronavirus however the country is now "consistently getting less than 20 new cases per day over recent days".

Health authorities are also testing extensively, with more than 570,000 tests completed.

 

Huge drop in overseas migration

Australia's border closures is having a huge impact on overseas migration, one that will especially be seen next year.

Mr Morrison said there would be an 85 per cent fall in overseas migration next year, when compared to the 2018/19 period.

 

Additional $205 million given to aged care sector

The federal government is today providing a further $205 million to the aged care sector.

Mr Morrison said the extra money was "to support them and the cost they are incurring" from dealing with coronavirus.

The federal government has given $850 million to the aged care sector since the coronavirus pandemic, the PM said.

 

Australians 'have earned an early mark'

Mr Morrison said the continued flattening of the curve meant the National Cabinet would look at easing restrictions next Friday.

"Australians have earned an early mark," he said.

Mr Morrison said the National Cabinet would meet twice over the next week before announcing relaxed restrictions next Friday.

He said health experts had provided 15 conditions that Australia should meet before restrictions could be relaxed.

Australia has already met 11 of the 15, he said.

Despite the move to relax restrictions next week, Mr Morrison said a "critical" part of that would be how many Aussies download the COVID tracing app.

"It's like not putting on sunscreen before going out into the blazing sun," he said.

"Our numbers may be low but coronavirus is still out there."

 

PM providing update after National Cabinet

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said today was another "very productive" National Cabinet meeting.

The PM said there were around 1000 active cases left in Australia and attention would now turn to fixing the crippled economy.

"We need to restart our economy, we need to restart our society. We can't keep Australia under the doona," he said.

Mr Morrison said the unemployment rate was expected to rise to around 10 per cent as more than a million people applied for Centrelink help.

More than 650,000 businesses have registered for JobKeeper and a further 950,000 people have applied to access some of their Super - totalling $7.9 billion.

Mr Morrison said overseas migration was also expected to fall by about a third.

He described the numerous government benefits as "putting a floor under our economy".


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