Scott Morrison will take a short break with his wife and children next week – eight months after he was criticised for visiting Hawaii during the worst bushfire season Australia had ever experienced.
During his press conference on Friday to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic, the prime minister revealed he had penciled in a trip on ‘the outskirts of Sydney’ next week.
A crisis is now underway in Victoria, with a record 288 coronavirus cases being confirmed in the locked down state on Friday, the highest for any Australian state during the pandemic.
But Mr Morrison assured the public he would still be working during the trip via video link and conference calls.
‘As you know, it is a school holidays and Jenny and the girls will be taking some time on the outskirts of Sydney,’ he said.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured) at the Pacific Skills Portal Launch during the Pacific Islands Forum in August. Mr Morrison has announced he will take a family vacation
COVID-19 cases in Victoria have spiked over the past three weeks to a recorded 288 new cases on Friday
‘But given the changing critical situation we have in Victoria, I will not be joining them for that full-time. I will also not be standing aside from the tasks I have all day.
‘We have technology where I can continue to take briefings, calls and meetings in dealing with the situation whether it be Victoria or other situations in the country.
The prime minister said that while he will not join his family for their entire vacation, it was important he still spent time with wife Jenny and children Abbey and Lily.
‘As a dad, I will take some time but at the same time I can assure you we will remain absolutely focused on the things we need to focus on next week,’ he added.
A photo of a group of Australian tourists who claimed to be with Prime Minister Scott Morrison (second from right) emerged on social media while his office refused to confirm where he was holidaying
A firefighter conducts back-burning measures (pictured) to secure residential areas from encroaching bushfires in the Central Coast on December 10
Back in mid-December 2019, Mr Morrison was widely criticised for his decision to take a trip to Hawaii during the height of the bushfire crisis.
But the bulk of the complaints seemed to stem from the secrecy surrounding his getaway, with his office at one point refusing to reveal his whereabouts.
Mr Morrison paid for his holiday personally – but was accompanied by security guards whose flights and accommodation were paid for by the taxpayer.
In the face of mounting backlash, Mr Morrison initially doubled down on his insistance that he was entitled to the holiday.
‘It’s not easy to get back, but I will as soon as I can,’ Mr Morrison told 2GB radio from Hawaii.
‘I know Australians will understand this, and they’ll be pleased I’m coming back… but they know that, you know, I don’t hold a hose mate’.
Mr Morrison went on the unannounced holiday with his family back in December 2019. (Pictured with his wife, Jenny, daughters Abbey and Lily and his mother Marion)
During his press conference on Friday to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Morrison (pictured) revealed he had penciled in a trip on ‘the outskirts of Sydney’ next week
Mr Morrison later apologised for any offence caused.
His approval rating since the Hawaii trip has skyrocketed as a result of his unflappable handling of the coronavirus crisis.
Mr Morrison said he would return to Canberra next week, but wanted to assure the public that he would continue to work hard to keep Australians safe behind closed doors during his trip away.
‘Just because I am not standing in front of a camera does not mean I am not behind my desk or doing what I need to do on a daily basis,’ he said.
Mr Morrison’s decision to go to Hawaii during the bushfire crisis caused outrage on social media, with Twitter users slamming him for his leadership and lack of empathy
Mr Morrison also took the opportunity to thank Victorians for their efforts in stemming the spread of a second wave of coronavirus.
Huge swathes of the state have entered a second round of COVID-19 related lockdowns following almost four weeks of unacceptably high new diagnoses.
On Friday, the state government announced an additional 288 new cases – the single highest daily spike for a state.
Of those cases, only 26 are connected to known outbreaks, with a whopping 262 under investigation, indicating the virus is being transmitted widely.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the figures will get worse over the next few days and warned that Melbourne’s six-week lockdown could be lengthened.
‘It was always going to get worse before it got better,’ he said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison with his wife, Jenny (pictured together) during an official work trip
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 9,059
New South Wales: 3,453
Western Australia: 627
South Australia: 443
Australian Capital Territory: 112
Northern Territory: 30
TOTAL CASES: 9,059
CURRENT ACTIVE CASES: 962
‘The best response to these numbers and the worse numbers that are likely to follow them is for all Victorians to play their part.’
Mr Andrews said the case numbers were so high because 37,000 tests were conducted.
‘We are doing more testing than has ever been done, not by a small margin, but by a massive margin,’ he said.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the 288 figure was ‘ugly’ and that he expected the numbers to plateau ‘in the next week’.
‘We will see in the effects of the lockdown in the next one to two weeks,’ he said.
For the first time in the pandemic Mr Andrews told residents under lockdown in Melbourne that they should wear a mask when leaving their homes for essential reasons.
The 288 total is the highest any state has ever recorded. The previous record was 212 new cases in NSW on 28 March during the peak of the pandemic in Australia.
Many of those were returned travellers and their close contacts, meaning the Victoria outbreak is far more dangerous and a ‘threat to the nation’ because the cases are transmitting rapidly among the local community.
Twenty-six new cases are connected to known outbreaks and the source of the rest is under investigation (pictured, response personnel dispose of rubbish in Melbourne on Friday)