Australia

Authorities urge coronavirus caution as Australia's death toll rises to 95

Chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy is urging Australians to remain cautious as lockdown restrictions are lifted. Source: AAP

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy says while Australia's coronavirus cases remain low, caution is still needed before further relaxing of restrictions.

Australia will move slowly to ease restrictions as it remains cautious of a second wave of coronavirus cases, chief medical officer Brendan Murphy says.

The national death toll from COVID-19 reached 95 on Sunday, following the death of an 83-year old in Western Australia and another person at the Anglicare-run nursing home, Newmarch House, in western Sydney.

But only 18 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the 24 hours to Sunday afternoon, taking the national total to 6801, still an extremely low figure by international standards.

"Although we are now seriously looking at what measures could be relaxed ... we are very cautious about the need to move slowly," Professor Murphy told reporters in Canberra on Sunday.

"The lessons we have learnt from overseas is that if you go too quickly and open up things too quickly, you can get a second wave."

A security guard stands in the driveway as flowers are seen left at the entrance to Anglicare Newmarch House agedcare home in Kingswood, near Penrith,NSW.
There are now 14 deaths linked to the coronavirus outbreak at Sydney's Newmarch nursing home.
AAP

Some states have already started to ease restrictions and the national cabinet will next Friday consider lifting some broader curbs.

However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said relaxing restrictions would depend on Australians signing up for the COVIDSafe app, which uses Bluetooth connections to determine who infected people have come into close contact with.

Prof Murphy said 4.25 million people had now registered for the app after it was launched a week ago.

"Clearly we need to keep downloads and registrations increasing," he said.

"We think there are about 16 million adults with smartphones - they're our target population."

Deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth told Sky News earlier the concept of elimination of COVID-19 in Australia would be "magnificent to achieve" but challenging to sustain.

"Which is why we have taken a position of suppression," he said.

"All those things are designed so that if there are small flares of coronavirus, spot fires if you will, that they can be suppressed very, very quickly," Dr Coatsworth said.

"That offers the best balance of getting society back on its feet, confidence back into our society and living with coronavirus until a vaccine arrives."

Meanwhile, a primary school in Melbourne's north will be shut for three days after one of its teachers tested positive to COVID-19.

Parents and carers of children at the school were notified of the development on Sunday morning.

This was reported just after a heated interview on schooling during the crisis on ABC television with federal Education Minister Dan Tehan accusing Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews of failing in his leadership and taking a sledgehammer to schools by keeping them shut.

Education Minister Dan Tehan admitted he overstepped the mark after attacking Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.
Education Minister Dan Tehan admitted he overstepped the mark after attacking Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.
AAP

Mr Tehan later issued a statement withdrawing the remarks, saying he had overstepped the mark.

Meanwhile, Queensland police were forced to issue more than 30 infringement notices for breaches of COVID-19 restrictions on the first day of easing such curbs.

From Saturday, residents in the state could travel up to 50km from their home to shop, visit a park or even go to the drive-in.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

Testing for coronavirus is now widely available across Australia. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

The federal government's coronavirus tracing app COVIDSafe is available for download from your phone's app store.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

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