Australia to chart course out of coronavirus crisis after lockdowns buy
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[April 07, 2020]
By Colin Packham and Renju Jose
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's lock-down
measures have bought it time in its fight against the coronavirus and it
must now decide its next course, its top medical officer said on
Tuesday, as the prime minister warned against irreparable economic
Australia has seen a sharp drop in its rate of new coronavirus cases in
recent days after strict social-distancing measures were brought in,
although there has been a rise in cases of people contracting the virus
from unknown sources, worrying authorities.
But the economic damage has been significant with the central bank
governor warning on Tuesday of a "very large economic contraction"
expected in the June quarter and unemployment surging.
Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said researchers were analysing
data on the epidemic to help the government plot a recovery, with the
benefit of some extra time afforded by social distancing.
"We are on a life raft but we still have to chart the course of where we
take that life raft," Murphy told reporters in Canberra.
"What is clear about the way that countries are responding to this virus
is that there is no clear, right answer. There are lots of potential
Australia has nearly 6,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and its death
toll rose to 46 on Tuesday after five more people died overnight,
including two passengers from Carnival Corp's <CCL.N> Ruby Princess
cruise liner, which is docked south of Sydney.
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Medical personnel administer tests for the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) at the Bondi Beach drive-through testing centre in
Sydney, Australia, April 7, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that while the government would
be guided by medical advice, he would not support policies that
would extend the health crisis to a point where it would irreparably
damage the economy.
"If a scenario comes forward and it involves a duration well beyond
the government's capacity to support it then that would render such
an option not workable," he said in Canberra.
Economists fear unemployment could spike toward 10% in coming months
as large sections of the economy all but close. The jobless rate
stood at 5.1% in February before rolling shutdowns threw many people
out of work.
Travel and hospitality, retail, transport and the education sectors
have been among the hardest hit.
Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe said in a statement the
unemployment rate was expected to increase to its highest level in
(Reporting by Colin Packham and Renju Jose; Writing by Jonathan
Barrett; Editing by Robert Birsel)
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