News National National cabinet to shift focus from fighting virus to rebooting economy

National cabinet to shift focus from fighting virus to rebooting economy

Scott Morrison wants the states and territories to keep their focus on the economy as infections remain low. Photo: TND
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The national cabinet will shift its focus from combating the coronavirus to rebooting the Australian economy when it meets on Friday after a two-week break.

As new infections remain low, the prime minister will urge state and territory leaders to take economic reform out of the too-hard-basket.

Mr Morrison wants the national cabinet – which he initially convened to deal with the health impact of coronavirus pandemic – to focus on boosting jobs, investment and economic growth.

The group will still receive detailed briefings from medical experts on the virus response and what could lie ahead.

Meanwhile Health Minister Greg Hunt warned Australians should expect “spikes and outbreaks” as Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia rush to contain new infections.

Victoria remains a virus hotspot, recording new 10 cases including a Rydges hotel security guard, five members of a household and three returned travellers in hotel quarantine.

In Queensland, three testing clinics have opened in the small town of Blackwater and sewage from its 5000 residents will be screened as authorities determine how a 30-year-old man contracted COVID-19.

Nathan Turner is Australia’s youngest COVID-19 fatality but it’s not known how he picked up the virus.

And in Western Australia local workers who unwittingly boarded an infected live export ship – with 12 confirmed cases among overseas crew so far – are set to receive their coronavirus test results on Friday.

Meanwhile South Australia and Victoria want nationally consistent guidelines for handling overseas arrivals after a bungled case resulted in a coronavirus infection in Adelaide.

A woman from Britain, who was granted an exemption on compassionate grounds to be with her dying father in Adelaide, arrived from Melbourne on Sunday but was not met by any local health officials.

SA Health staff had missed an email from their Victorian counterparts, detailing the woman’s flight arrangements.

The woman in her 50s became South Australia’s 440th virus case and the first for almost three weeks, prompting a temporary ban on travel exemptions on compassionate grounds.

Blackwater mystery

Anxiety levels are high in the small Queensland town of Blackwater as authorities try to determine how a 30-year-old man contracted the coronavirus.

Gregory MP Lachlan Millar appealed for calm after the death of former miner Nathan Turner.

Mr Millar said residents of the town, population 5000, were on edge.

“There are a lot of people pointing fingers at the moment, but that isn’t the right way to go about it,” Mr Millar said.

It comes as investigators consider if Mr Turner’s infection was linked to a Rockhampton nurse who had visited the town when she was infectious.

Health Minister Stephen Miles was advised that was unlikely, because Mr Turner developed symptoms before the nurse went on a 400km round trip to take in the sights.

Mr Miles said the nurse’s reason for driving to Blackwater during the lockdown was “a bit curious”.

Victorian cases

A second security guard at a Melbourne hotel housing quarantined travellers has been diagnosed with coronavirus even as the hospitality industry prepares to welcome healthy guests.

The worker at Rydges on Swanston was confirmed on Thursday to have the virus, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said.

A day earlier, the health department announced the first worker at the hotel had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

coronavirus Rydges swanston
Two security staff from the Rydges on Swanston have the coronavirus.

“They are security staff who had come down with illness,” Professor Sutton said.

“There wasn’t much overlap in their working schedules but there is the possibility that they have overlapped at some point.”

Although the staff didn’t do direct care work, Professor Sutton said they would accompany people going out for fresh air while wearing safety gear.

The hotel is shut to the public.

“Rydges has 13 people who have current active disease, and there are three others who are in quarantine there that are their close contacts,” Prof Sutton said.

Meanwhile more cases are anticipated from a large household where five members have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

Sheep emergency

Talks are under way to sail 56,000 sheep to the Middle East after the ship they were bound for became stranded in a Western Australian port amid a coronavirus outbreak.

The Al Kuwait docked in Fremantle on Friday with 48 multinational crew on board and 12 cases had been confirmed by Thursday.

The infected crew and dozens of their colleagues are in hotel quarantine, while a skeleton crew of 10 remains on board.

With the northern summer live export ban beginning on Monday, the scramble to get the sheep to the Middle East as soon as possible is on and will require an exemption by the federal agriculture department.

WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan revealed negotiations were under way to use the Awassi Express, now named the Anna Marra, which is not far off the Fremantle coast.

Ironically, that vessel sparked the ban following outrage over mass sheep deaths caused by heat stress on a 2017 journey.

Sending the sheep to local abattoirs is considered a last resort.

Meanwhile, local workers who boarded the vessel before the infections were confirmed, including a Fremantle Port Authority pilot and a trainee who steered the ship into harbour, are self-isolating at home while awaiting test results.

State Health Minister Roger Cook said they were expected on Friday.

Cinematic experience

It’s a small step in the grand scheme of things, but something close to normality has returned to Blacktown with the re-opening of the last surviving drive-in theatre in NSW.

Blacktown’s Skyline cinema in greater western Sydney was bustling once again on Thursday night, playing cult classics and family favourites.

“It was nice to see some very happy customers again and to smell the fresh popcorn,” Event Cinemas entertainment director Luke Mackey Mackey told AAP.


-with AAP