Scott Morrison has dismissed calls to pursue a COVID-19 elimination strategy, saying that trying to wipe out coronavirus would cripple the embattled economy.
The prime minister said the strategy would involve a long and harsh lockdown, like the one implemented in New Zealand, that would cost jobs and may not even work.
He said the Victorian outbreak, caused by hotel quarantine breaches, showed there is no guarantee elimination can be achieved when essential workers and returning Australians are entering the country from overseas.
‘You can’t mortgage off your economy for what would prove to be an illusory goal,’ he said.
Scott Morrison (pictured on Thursday) has dismissed calls to pursue an elimination strategy, saying that trying to wipe out coronavirus would cripple the economy
A woman wearing a mask is seen locked in the North Melbourne public housing towers during the enforced coronavirus lockdown (pictured)
‘You’re talking about hundreds of thousands of more people unemployed for a start and other businesses closing and livelihoods destroyed.’
Nearly one million Australians are now unemployed thanks to the coronavirus shutdown, the highest rate for 22 years.
Mr Morrison said Victoria had the hardest lockdowns but still succumbed to a second wave, showing that the strategy was ‘risky’.
‘It’s a very risky strategy and one that can be very illusory and it’s one that the AHPPC and chief medical officers have been consistent on,’ he said.
Mr Morrison said New South Wales and Victoria in particular supported the suppression strategy.
‘That’s the path we are on. If you get to elimination as a result of this, well and good,’ he said.
A man and woman wearing a facemask walking along Lygon Street in Melbourne on Wednesday (pictured) as Victoria endured an 11th straight day of triple-digit infections
NSW recorded ten new cases on Thursday including three more people linked to the Crossroads Hotel (pictured) cluster in southwest Sydney
Mr Morrison conceded Australia faces a difficult fight against coronavirus as unemployment continues to climb and the national death toll reaches 113.
The prime minister, who announced a $2.5billion skills program to help young Australians find work, urged people to stay positive.
‘Australians are incredibly resilient and even as we go through these difficult times, let’s lift our heads and keep looking forward,’ he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
Two men in their 80s died in Victoria overnight as the state recorded 317 more cases in the past 24 hours – the largest daily increase since the start of the pandemic.
There are 109 people hospitalised in Victoria including 29 in intensive care.
Melbourne is currently on lockdown after a surge in cases (pictured, an empty Flinders Street Station on Thursday)
Mr Morrison said the Victorian outbreak was a big setback to economic recovery, but he was encouraged by what he was hearing out of NSW.
NSW recorded 10 new cases on Thursday including three more people linked to the Crossroads Hotel cluster in southwest Sydney.
Health authorities are gravely concerned about coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes, while several staff at a children’s hospital have also been infected.
Meanwhile, states such as Western Australia remain closed off from the rest of the country as officials seemingly pursue the goal of zero cases of COVID-19.
New Zealand’s leader Jacinda Ardern also opted for an elimination strategy, with the country enduring a harsh lockdown.
Jacinda Ardern (pictured on July 8) has opted for an elimination policy to rid New Zealand of coronavirus
But it has since reopened, and has suffered just 22 deaths related to the virus.
Ms Ardern conceded that the country must prepare for further outbreaks, but that elimination remains their strategy.
New Zealand last reported a case of community transmission ten weeks ago.
‘No system is 100 per cent foolproof and around the world, we are seeing even the most rigorous measures being tested by the virus,’ Ms Ardern told reporters in Wellington in Wednesday.
Victoria recorded its 11th straight day of triple digit infections on Thursday, with 317 new coronavirus cases