Trying to completely eradicate the coronavirus in Australia is not worth the economic cost and would be extremely difficult to achieve, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned.
The Australian leader said on Thursday night there was ‘no clear additional benefit’ to tightening social distancing rules to an extent the economy was left in complete ruin.
The phrase ‘suppression phase’ is instead being used by the government to describe the fight against COVID-19 as the national growth rate in cases continues to slow.
Mr Morrison also provided a road map for Australia’s exit route out of its coronavirus restrictions – with the easing of restrictions on the construction, manufacturing and retail industries a high priority.
Pedestrians walk past a closed Bondi Beach last week. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has stayed firm with the government’s ‘suppression phase’, saying idea of completely eradicating the coronavirus is ‘very elusive’
‘I can assure you no-one wants these restrictions in any longer than they have to be in,’ Mr Morrison told ABC’s 7.30.
‘It’s one of the reasons we don’t go for that complete eradication strategy – it’s very elusive.
‘And the costs to those livelihoods are very significant, with no real clear additional benefit, at least from the evidence we’re getting at the moment.
‘You can win the health war and lose the economic war – you’ve got to deal with both of them at the same time.’
Mr Morrison said in an earlier press conference restrictions would only be eased after clear signs that testing, tracing and local efforts to stop outbreaks of the virus were working.
Mr Morrison said the easing of restrictions on the construction, manufacturing and retail industries was a high priority
Australia has made significant progress in the fight against coronavirus, with a clear flattening of the curve on the graph that measures the daily infection rate
A temperature checking and hand sanitiser station is seen at the entrance to the Sydney Fish on Friday
He warned Australians could not afford to be complacent about the dramatic decrease in the spread of COVID-19 in recent weeks.
‘Look at New York, London, Spain, all of those places – that could be Australia,’ he said. ‘We should not kid ourselves.’
‘If you don’t keep it under control, it will get away from you quickly and then you’ll have to lock down even harder and the economic costs will be even worse.’
Mr Morrison also reported back from the National Cabinet meeting on Thursday morning, where the resumption of certain industries was discussed.
‘Already we’re going to want to move on things like construction and manufacturing,’ he said.
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 6,479
New South Wales: 2,897
South Australia: 434
Western Australia: 535
Australian Capital Territory: 103
Northern Territory: 28
TOTAL CASES: 6,479
‘Once you go to the next phase, in retail there will be opportunities there. You’ll see more people being able to work at work, perhaps on a roster-type basis. Some of that is happening already.’
Earlier on Thursday, the prime minister said Australia’s biggest states will be able to relax some of their harsher restrictions sooner than the four-week mark if they chose to do so.
‘States and territories that went further than those baselines… will be reviewing those in the meantime,’ Mr Morrison said.
It means that pubs, restaurants and gyms will be kept shut, large gatherings will remain banned and working from home will be encouraged where possible.
Weddings are still limited to five people and funerals to ten people.
However, elective surgery could be resumed on Tuesday when the National Cabinet meets again.
There were only 19 new cases of coronavirus in Australia on Wednesday, taking the national total to 6,468. The crisis peaked at 460 daily cases on 28 March.
Mr Morrison warned that lifting restrictions too fast could be catastrophic.
‘If you ease off too quickly too early, then you end up making the situation even worse and I don’t just mean in the health terms,’ he said.
‘If you move too early and the health response gets out of control then the economic consequences will be even worse. We need to keep it finely balanced.’
Mr Morrison (pictured during Thursday’s press conference) said Australia could not be complacent about easing coronavirus restrictions if the country did not want to be in the same situation as New York or London