Australia

Scott Morrison maps out Australia's path back to work

Mr Pompeo pointed to Prime Minister Scott Morrison while launching the latest verbal salvo against China. Source: AAP

Australia is mapping out the path back to work, with businesses forced to prove they can operate safely amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Employers must guarantee coronavirus-safe workplaces before they're allowed to reopen as the government sets a July target to restore business and industry.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday chaired a national cabinet meeting with state and territory leaders focused on getting millions back to work as the virus costs the country $4 billion a week.

The Safe Work Australia website has been turbocharged to provide 23 sectors specific advice about cleaning standards, appropriate products and other anti-virus requirements.

National cabinet has nominated July as the target for establishing a safe economy, with physical distancing and hygiene to remain crucial.

Businesses will also be given advice on managing potential outbreaks and reconfiguring sites to meet health recommendations.

Mr Morrison stressed the importance of coronavirus-safe workplaces as the nation looks to repair economic damage.

An almost deserted George Street at 9am in Sydney.
An almost deserted George Street at 9am in Sydney.
AAP

"At $4 billion a week we have a very strong incentive for all Australians, who are wearing that cost every week, to reduce that as much as possible as soon as we can," he told reporters in Canberra.

Some restrictions are expected to be eased after the next national cabinet meeting on Friday.

Unions want bosses to be legally obligated to provide safe workplaces for customers and workers to prevent infections.

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus has called for employers to be compelled to report virus cases, an idea the government is open to.

The ACTU is also pushing for paid pandemic leave for workers who believe they are infected.

"Workers and the public need to be kept safe should our economy reopen," Ms McManus said.

Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter believes existing laws will force employers to provide safe workplaces.

His main concern is making sure businesses understand their obligations.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern joined Tuesday's national cabinet meeting to discuss a trans-Tasman travel bubble.

Mr Morrison said there were important economic benefits for both countries in restarting international travel.

"The most obvious place for that to start is between Australia and New Zealand," he said.

He said the return of domestic tourism routes like Melbourne to Cairns would likely coincide with travel across the Tasman.

Ms Ardern said a travel bubble could be considered because of both countries' strong performance in stopping the spread of coronavirus.

"When we feel comfortable and confident that we both won't receive cases from Australia, but equally that we won't export them, then that will be the time to move," she told reporters in Wellington.

Jacinda Adern
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Adern speaks during a national coronavirus update.
Getty

Travellers should not expect to be forced into two-week quarantine periods when flights restart.

Pacific nations will be next in line to join the travel zone after Australia and New Zealand reopen their borders.

Australia's coronavirus death toll has risen to 97 after a 16th person died at Sydney's Newmarch House nursing home.

There have been 6849 detected cases nationally, with more than 5800 people recovered.

A cluster at a Melbourne abattoir has grown to 45 cases, with the outbreak behind 11 of Victoria's 17 new infections on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, almost five million people have downloaded the COVIDSafe tracing app.

Legislation to boost the app's privacy protections has been released, with maximum penalties of five years in jail and $63,000 fines for accessing data without authorisation.

The Morrison government has also pledged $352 million to a European Union global research fund to create a coronavirus vaccine.

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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