(Australian Associated Press)
Scott Morrison believes returning to work and school will be crucial wins against coronavirus as Australia prepares to lift restrictions to live with the deadly disease.
The prime minister said the nation’s great success in flattening infection rates did not mean victory over the pandemic.
“We don’t want to just win the battle against COVID-19 but lose a broader conflict when it comes to the economy and the functioning of our society,” he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.
Just one new case of the virus was detected from unknown sources in the most recent 24-hour statistical period – the second day in a row with a single case.
The nation’s death toll rose to 89 on Wednesday after a woman in her 80s died in Victoria, while more than 5600 of the 6741 people diagnosed with coronavirus nationally have recovered.
“If we were to consider our success on COVID-19 as just having a low number of cases, that is not good enough,” Mr Morrison said.
The prime minister nominated having the protections in place to enable people to return to work and children attend classrooms as important benchmarks in the battle to restore society.
“Of course there will continue to be additional cases, of course there will be outbreaks – that’s what living with the virus will be like,” he said.
State and territory governments have begun to relax some rules, while national cabinet meetings in mid-May loom as crucial to lifting further restrictions.
More than 2.8 million people have downloaded and registered for the government’s coronavirus tracing app less than three days after it was released.
Mr Morrison urged those signed up to encourage two or three other people to download it, likening the app to wearing sunscreen outside.
“That is Australia’s ticket to a COVID-safe Australia where we can go about doing the things we love doing once again,” he said.
Numbers of people on the dole have skyrocketed, with more than 800,000 applications for the JobSeeker payment processed.
A new mental health coordination plan is due to be delivered to the national cabinet of federal and state leaders next week.
Diplomatic tensions with China have reached new highs as Australia continues to push for an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus.
Mr Morrison denied it was a move directed at Beijing, saying the inquiry would be in the global health interest.
“It is not a remarkable position. It is a fairly common sense position and one that we don’t resile from,” he said.
An extra 10 million coronavirus test kits have arrived in Australia, which amounts to about a 20-fold increase in testing capability.
Banks will begin sending out free debit cards to customers who don’t have them to help with online shopping.
State and federal leaders will have their next national cabinet meeting on Friday after last week committing to developing guidelines for elite sport.
Debate around when the AFL and NRL should restart their competitions is continuing but football’s return will likely be guided by government principles.
Mr Morrison said the leagues had to satisfy all health requirements before being given the green light to play.