National News

PM encourages Australians to stay positive

Australian PM Scott Morrison 600x400

Scott Morrison concedes Australia faces a difficult fight against coronavirus as unemployment continues to climb and the national death toll reaches 113.

The prime minister is injecting $500 million into a new $2 billion skills program and encouraging people to stay positive.

"Let's keep our heads up and let's keep going 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.

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.

The prime minister said NSW had responded incredibly quickly and effectively to the outbreak, holding it up as the gold standard model.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd is watching Victorian case numbers rise each day but says the increase is not too dramatic.

Professor Kidd is also keeping a close eye on the number of people admitted to hospital, particularly those in intensive care.

"And of course we are gravely concerned about the number of residential aged care facilities where we have seen cases of COVID-19," he told the ABC.

Eight Victorian aged care facilities have residents with coronavirus, while a further 24 nursing homes have staff infected.

Experts are also investigating how a handful of staff at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne contracted the virus.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has talked down the prospect of moving to even harsher lockdown rules, given Melburnians are only one week into six-week stay-at-home restrictions.

"It's well too early for us to be moving to a whole new stage," he told reporters in Melbourne.

In NSW, there are now 37 cases linked to the Crossroads Hotel.

The "patient zero" of the cluster was a Melbourne freight company worker who attended the pub on July 3.

Truck drivers are exempt from state border closure rules.

Mr Morrison expects transport industry leaders and health officials to propose changes around these public health orders to national cabinet if necessary.

Professor Kidd is waiting to see how large the coronavirus contagion becomes.

"It depends on individuals' behaviour and on the number of people that an infected person has come into close contact with," he said.

"Most importantly, though, anybody who was at that hotel, with the slightest symptoms, they must arrange to be tested."

The prime minister also strengthened his language against pursuing the "very risky" strategy of eradicating coronavirus, instead of an aggressive suppression strategy.

"If you get to elimination as a result of this, well and good. If that's the byproduct, well and good, but you can't mortgage off your economy for what would prove to be an illusory goal by the process," he said.

© AAP 2020

Photo: Australian PM Scott Morrison (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)