New commission set up to navigate Australia's virus response

A worker washes an empty Circular Quay this week. Source: Getty

Governments have agreed to set up a COVID-19 coordination commission to help anticipate and mitigate the impacts of the health crisis.

A new commissioner will advise Australian governments on what should be done to tackle the social and economic effects of coronavirus.

Sweeping closures of businesses and a clampdown on travel have led to tens of thousands of job losses, with at least 800,000 more expected.

"That commission's job put simply is to solve problems," Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

The commission will help private sector companies and organisations work more closely, and tie into the efforts of the public sector.

"It's about better coordinating the efforts that are happening within the public sector," he said.

Neville Power, who runs Perth Airport and used to head up Fortescue Metals, will head up the commission which will also help governments navigate the mental health impacts on sacked workers and people confined to their homes.

St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney earlier this week.
St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney earlier this week.

"I think that Australia right now more than anything needs to focus on minimising and mitigating the impact of the coronavirus on our businesses, on our communities, on our people," Mr Power told reporters.

"So my role is going to be looking for those problems and looking for opportunities where we can join businesses together."

The commission will look where there is a workforce that is no longer gainfully employed and where workers are needed, and where equipment can be redeployed.

It will also intervene to protect critical supply chains and utilities.

"We know that this virus will come and go," Mr Power said.

"We want to be well-positioned to make sure that we restore people's jobs and livelihoods as quickly as we can afterwards."

Australians must stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people. Indoors, there must be a density of no more than one person per four square metres of floor space.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor, don’t visit, or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

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