Australia’s top doctor at the forefront of the fight against the coronavirus has been at loggerheads with politicians as they disagree on how to battle the global pandemic.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison even ignored Brendan Murphy, the country’s chief medical officer, after he dished out contrary advice on a travel ban to Italy.
Dr Murphy is the government’s chief medical adviser and is on the board of several top medical institutes.
He greenlighted the government’s controversial decision not to isolate the cabinet after a meeting with home affairs minister Peter Dutton, who tested positive for coronavirus on Friday.
The advice of Dr Brendan Murphy (pictured on March 11), Australia’s chief medical officer, has not always been welcomed by some politicians
On Dr Murphy’s advice, the cabinet did not need to self-isolate as they were not with Mr Dutton 24 hours he displayed symptoms.
This is a direct contradiction with advice from the World Office Organisation, which says a person can be contagious up to 48 hours before falling ill.
Passengers on Mr Dutton’s flight from the US to Australia have been advised to self-isolate, despite this taking place before his cabinet meeting.
It is also understood to have angered several MPs.
In revelations published on Saturday night by the Australian, Dr Murphy admitted Mr Morrison even rejected his advice when it came to the Italy travel ban.
Friends in elaborate face masks are seen stocking up on toilet paper (pictured) as they walk past the closed Caulfield Racecourse in Melbourne on Saturday
Italy is one of several countries, including China, Japan and Iran, to which the Australian government has imposed a strict travel ban.
This was after the number of COVID-19 cases in Italy swelled to more than 15,000 and the country went into lockdown.
Peter Dutton (pictured) was in hospital on Friday after testing positive for coronavirus
Despite this, Dr Murphy advised the government the action was not necessary.
He told the publication that despite this, Mr Dutton – now himself in hospital with coronavirus – vehemently disagreed, as did other senior politicians.
Mr Dutton is thought to have contracted the virus on a trip the US on March 5 and 6, where he met with officials as part of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing programme.
But the government did agree with Dr Murphy when he advised bringing in a ban on gatherings of 500 people or more, which will come into effect from Monday.
Tourists wearing face masks are seen posing in front of Sydney’s Habour Bridge on Saturday (pictured)
Peter Dutton (pictured, left) was diagnosed with coronavirus just three days after a cabinet meeting, where Prime Minister Scott Morrison (right) was also in attendance
Mr Morrison came under fierce criticism for delaying the ban, with some accusing him of acting strategically to protect a conference at the Hillsong church, as well as a Cronulla Sharks NRL game.
It has also prompted a backlash from yet more MPs.
There have also been questions raised about Dr Murphy’s response to Mr Dutton’s diagnosis.
WHO IS BRENDAN MURPHY?
Dr Murphy is Australia’s chief medical officer, meaning he gives health advice to the government to inform its policy.
His specialty is nephrology, which is the study of kidneys and kidney disease
He is a fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences, as well as the Royal Australian College of Physicians.
The doctor was formerly CMO and director of nephrology at St Vincent’s Health.
He also sat on the Boards of Health Workforce Australia, the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute and the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre.
On Friday, the home affairs minister described how he woke up ‘a temperature and a sore throat’ and later tested positive for coronavirus.
It has sparked fears that the entire cabinet, including the prime minister, could have been in close proximity to the deadly virus.
But a spokesman for the prime minister insisted Mr Dutton was not contagious at the time of the meeting, so none of the cabinet ministers would be tested.
The cabinet met on Tuesday to discuss the budget, and will have been sat in close proximity, prompting calls for parliament to shut down.
Dr Murphy advised officials that there was no need to self-isolate, because a person with coronavirus is only contagious within the 24 hours before they develop symptoms.
‘If you have been in contact with them two or three days before they are symptomatic, they are very, very, very unlikely to be infectious,’ he told reporters in Melbourne on Saturday.
But according to advise from other global health experts, including WHO, coronavirus can be contagious up to 48 hours before symptoms develop in a patient.
This means Mr Dutton could still have been contagious on Wednesday, but was unlikely to have been so when he met with the cabinet on Tuesday.
It comes as yet more politicians undergo tests for the virus, and questions are raised about travel bans not being in place for other countries – including the US.
On Saturday, treasurer Josh Frydenberg revealed he too had been tested for the disease, but it had come back negative.
A couple wearing face masks are seen walking around Sydney’s Circular Quay on March 14 (pictured) as fears of the coronavirus spread
He insisted the decision to take the test was not related to Mr Dutton’s diagnosis.
Former deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek also announced on Twitter that she had been tested and cleared of the respiratory infection.
It has lead to calls from MP Barnaby Joyce for parliament to be shutdown, and politicians not returning to the chamber on March 23.
‘If we can send millions of dollars over the internet then we can surely find a way of holding parliament over the internet,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘If any MPs have had contact with Peter Dutton they have a duty to out themselves now. It’s not about you it’s about the older people you may affect.
‘They could all have it.’
When a person has been in contact with someone later diagnosed with coronavirus, they are expected to self-isolate for 14 days.
Australia has imposed a travel ban on Italy, after the country was hit by more than 15,000 cases of coronavirus (stock image)