Millions more Australians will need to download the COVIDSafe app before the federal government will consider significantly easing restrictions such as reopening pubs, the prime minister has suggested.
Scott Morrison has floated the tantalising prospect of allowing housebound citizens out for a beer as the date to consider easing restrictions was brought forward.
The national cabinet will now meet on Friday to decide on Australia-wide baseline restrictions with a view to reviving the economy.
Mr Morrison said Australia’s virus measures were tracking well, meeting 11 of the 15 conditions of the Pandemic Health Intelligence Plan which guides the relaxation of shutdown rules.
However one of the conditions that had not been met was the uptake rate of the contact tracing app.
So far it has been downloaded 3.5 million times but health officials and the federal government are warning it’s not enough, with millions more needing to register.
The COVIDSafe app, which tracks and therefore helps quash new outbreaks, is being touted as the nation’s ticket to freedom.
When asked how soon Australians could go back to the pub, Mr Morrison replied that the first step would be to download the app.
“If that isn’t an incentive for Australians to download COVIDSafe on a Friday, I don’t know what is,” he said.
Mr Morrison said uptake of the app was “a critical issue” for national cabinet when it came to making decisions on easing restrictions on Friday.
That would give Australians one week to register for COVIDSafe.
Infection rates have plummeted with fewer than 20 cases a day being consistently recorded nationally.
Total infections to date in Australia are 6765 and the death toll on Saturday morning was 93 after the 13th resident died at Sydney nursing home Newmarch House on Thursday.
Mr Morrison said restarting the economy was as important as stopping the spread of the virus and it was time to flatten the curve on unemployment and business closures.
“We need to restart our economy, we need to restart our society. We can’t keep Australia under the doona, we need to move ahead,” he said.
Newmarch House infections
Another two staff members at Sydney’s Newmarch House nursing home have tested positive for COVID-19 following the deaths of 13 residents.
More than 60 people – 24 staff and 37 residents – at the nursing home near Penrith have tested positive since the outbreak on April 11.
“We are investigating further as to how this occurred and we continue to work closely with the NSW Public Health Unit on this,” Anglicare Sydney said in a statement on Saturday morning.
“Additional positive cases associated with Newmarch House are very distressing for our staff, our residents, and their families.”
Dossier on China
A secret dossier prepared by Western governments reveals the extent to which China sought to cover up the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, The Saturday Telegraph reports.
The 15-page report says the Chinese government hid what was happening by silencing or “disappearing” doctors who spoke out, destroying lab evidence and refusing to give live samples to international scientists working on a vaccine, the newspaper reports.
A team of Chinese scientists trained and funded by the Australian government also features in the report for their work discovering samples of coronavirus genetically similar to COVID-19 from a cave in the Yunnan province and their research synthesising a bat-derived coronavirus.
A copy of the dossier was reportedly obtained by The Saturday Telegraph.
The coronavirus outbreak in Tasmania’s northwest region is largely under control as the state reported no new cases in the past day.
Twelve of Tasmania’s 13 deaths have been in the northwest and two-thirds of an overall 221 cases have come from the outbreak there.
On Friday night, the state’s chief health officer reported no new cases but said vigilance remains high.
Extra restrictions placed over the northwest compared to the rest of the state – the closure of non-essential retailers and schools – will ease as of Monday.
Penrith playmaker Nathan Cleary could face stiffer sanctions from the the NRL following his social media exploits during the coronavirus crisis.
Cleary was fined $4000 by the NRL on Tuesday after images of him with a group of women at his house emerged – in apparent contravention of social distancing measures.
After that penalty was imposed two videos of Cleary dancing with up to five women were uploaded to social media platform TikTok.
The NRL issued a brief statement on Friday night confirming Cleary has been served with an amended breach notice, which likely relates to the videos.
He has five days to respond before any penalty is finalised.
The 22-year-old originally had 60 per cent of a $10,000 fine and a one-game ban suspended by the NRL but police did not take action.
Victorians remain housebound
As some states ease restrictions this weekend, the Victorian government is instead offering entertainment in the home.
The website together.vic.gov.au showcasing live music and comedy by local creatives will launch Sunday evening, aiming to help Victorians feel connected in spite of their confinement.
The government is spending more than $2 million on artists to make the content.
Victorians can still only meet in groups of two unless they are with household members or at work.
There are still only four reasons to leave the house – to buy food and medical supplies, exercise or attend work or school.