SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s action is locking in time to fight the corona virus and now must decide on the next step, leading medical officials said on Tuesday, when the prime minister warned against irreparable economic damage.
Medical personnel conduct tests for coronavirus (COVID-19) at the Bondi Beach drive-through test center in Sydney, Australia, April 7, 2020. REUTERS / Loren Elliott
Australia has seen a sharp decline in the rate of new corona virus cases in recent days after stringent social measures were taken, despite an increase in cases of people infected with the virus from unknown sources, worrying the authorities.
But economic damage has been significant with the central bank governor’s warning on Tuesday of the expected “massive economic contraction” in the June quarter and rising unemployment.
Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said the researchers were analyzing data on the epidemic to help the government plan a recovery, with the benefit of some additional time provided by social distance.
“We are on the rescue raft but we still have to map the road where we took the raft,” Murphy told reporters in Canberra.
“What is clear about the way the country responds to this virus is that there are no clear and correct answers. There are many potential paths. ”
Australia has nearly 6,000 confirmed cases of the corona virus and the number of deaths increased to 46 on Tuesday after five other people died overnight, including two passengers from Carnival Corp’s (CCL.N) The cruise ship Ruby Princess, which docked south of Sydney.
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 the point where it would irreparably damage the economy.
“If a scenario arises and it involves a duration far beyond the capacity of the government to support it then that would make such an option unworkable,” he said in Canberra.
Economists worry unemployment could surge towards 10% in the coming months because most economies are almost closed. The unemployment rate stood at 5.1% in February before rolling shutdown caused many people to lose their jobs.
The travel and hospitality, retail, transportation and education sectors were among the hardest hit.
Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe said in a statement the unemployment rate is expected to rise to its highest level in several years.
Reporting by Colin Packham and Renju Jose; Writing by Jonathan Barrett; Editing by Robert Birsel
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