News Coronavirus Federal treasurer in isolation over virus fears as premiers warn of complacency

Federal treasurer in isolation over virus fears as premiers warn of complacency

coronavirus modelling australia
Social distancing measures will be the new norm in the months ahead. Photo: ABC News/Ron Ekkel
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Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is in isolation while he awaits the results of a test for the coronavirus after a prolonged coughing fit in Parliament on Tuesday.

Mr Frydenberg coughed several times during a parliamentary speech on Australia’s economic situation and later sought the advice of a deputy chief medical officer.

“The DCMO advised me that out of an abundance of caution, it was prudent I be tested for COVID-19,” he said in a statement.

“Following the receipt of his advice, I immediately left Parliament House to be tested and will await the result in isolation.

“I expect the result of my test to be provided tomorrow.”

The ABC’s Patricia Karvelas said the treasurer was scheduled to be interviewed by her on Tuesday night.

“Josh Frydenberg was actually scheduled to speak to me on the other show I host on radio national at six o’clock tonight. The Treasurer has just informed me that he won’t be able to do that interview. It seems to me he is pulling out of his media obligations as a result of that coughing fit and he will be tested for COVID-19,” she said.

Meanwhile, NSW recorded a coronavirus milestone on Tuesday, with no new cases overnight – for the first time since the pandemic began in January.

Further south, Victoria had 17 new cases, including eight linked to the Cedar Meats cluster and three from community transmissions.

Western Australia also had its first case in several days, with a hotel worker in a Perth quarantine hotel testing positive for COVID-19.

The 18 new cases take Australia’s total coronavirus infections to 6959. The national death toll is unchanged at 97.

The latest updates came as Victoria delivered some much-anticipated good news about the state’s schools. Premier Daniel Andrews said they would reopen on May 26 for preps, grades one and two, for year 11 and 12 students, and for students at special schools.

Victoria had been the last state holding out on winding up remote learning until, in a cause for celebration for parents, Mr Andrews said remaining students from years 3-10 would be back on campuses across the state on June 9.

“I know the past four weeks have been very, very challenging,” Mr Andrews said.

“As a father of three kids who have been learning from home, I know this has been a very challenging time for many families.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg paused for a few minutes suffering a coughing fit during his speech to parliament on Tuesday. Photo: AAP

Concerns were raised after Mr Frydenberg struggled to suppress a coughing fit as he discussed the sobering data that revealed the full economic effects of the coronavirus.

He confirmed Treasury’s forecast the economy will shrink by $50 billion, or 10 per cent, in the June quarter amid coronavirus restrictions that have shut down swathes of businesses. The loss is equivalent to the total quarterly production of South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the ACT.

Earlier, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the lack of new cases were a major milestone in the state’s fight against the pandemic. In NSW, 3053 people have so far contracted the virus and 44 have died.

“We know that there will be people walking around today in the community that will have the virus,” she said.

“It’s our job to make sure that we identify them so if you have the mildest symptoms, please come forward and get tested.”

NSW Deputy Chief Health Officer Jeremy McAnulty urged the community to take the threat of coronavirus seriously, despite the extraordinary result.

“We know the virus will be bubbling around beneath the surface in the community,” Dr McAnulty said.

“Testing is really the key – we need to find every person who may have infection and we can only do that by people coming forward for testing.

“The enemy is complacency, if people drop their guard, think it’s just a cold or the flu … that will be a mistake.”

Northern Territory remains community transmission free. Photo: AAP

No cause for complacency

However, state leaders and health authorities warn that with the easing of restrictions and a state-by-state staggered re-opening of schools, shopping centres, beaches and increased visitor numbers to households, there is no room for complacency.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said Australia’s 18 new cases were a strong reminder states were “not out of the woods” in eliminating COVID-19.

“You’re never going to know where there’s going to be someone acquire the illness, which I think perhaps explains to everyone why we’re being cautious,” he said.

“We do need to continue to treat the issue seriously and I think this [Perth] case arising, in an environment where we have had a number of days of zero cases, reminds us we’re not out of the woods yet.”

cafe growth
Cafes and restaurants are taking a growing share of consumer spending. Photo: Getty

What’s now open and where can we go?

Canberra cafes and restaurants will able to reopen from midnight on Friday, but only with 10 seated guests.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr acknowledged the slight easing of coronavirus restrictions would make economic sense only for a handful of businesses.

“It is clear that the vast majority of the hospitality industry will remain takeaway-only for now,” Mr Barr said on Tuesday.

ACT playgrounds, dog parks and outdoor gyms will also reopen this weekend, along with some national parks and reserves.

Community centres and halls will be able to host gatherings of up to 10 people and libraries will begin to reopen.

“You should approach any other person like they have the virus, or that you might be carrying the virus, so you must stay apart as much as possible,” he said.

Golf cart
Golf is back on in most states, but Victoria had to just wait it out. Photo: AAP

‘Fore’! – golf is back on course in Victoria

Victoria’s authorities have suffered weeks of criticism for shutting golf courses – to the anguish of professional and amateur players – but golf courses are now ready to tee-off bright and early on Wednesday.

Golf Australia media manager Mark Hayes said Wednesday would be a special day for Victorian golfers to get back to the green.

“It will all be worth it because all the courses are in perfect condition. People will be a bit rusty,” Mr Hayes said.

“Most of the green staff have been able to stay on in some capacity and keep things in good nick. It is going to be pretty special.”

Golfers are urged to have patience as clubs rebuild and get a membership, if financially possible.