Australia's medical chief says anti-coronavirus curbs must continue

A police officer asks people to move while patrolling at Bondi Beach in Sydney on April 12, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) - Australians have done a good job in adjusting to government restrictions and social distancing measures but it isn't the right time to begin easing some of those rules, Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said.

"It's really important that we look at what's happened around the world, where people have released restrictions and had to reimpose them," Professor Murphy told reporters.

Australia reported 51 new confirmed coronavirus cases over the 24 hours to 6am Sydney time. This brings the total number of infections to 6,289, with 57 deaths and more than 351,000 tests conducted.

Australia's political leaders have unanimously urged people to stay at home over the Easter break to help quell the spread of the virus.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and opposition leader Anthony Albanese both used Easter messages earlier this week to encourage people to remain at home over the four-day holiday.

Even with the number of confirmed cases remaining low over the past week, Australia's second most-populous state, Victoria, decided to extend its state of emergency until May 11 to help "flatten the curve" and give its health system the best chance to cope with the virus spread.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack echoed Mr Morrison's sentiments, urging Australians to continue to obey the rules and not to become complacent.

Over the weekend, the United States became the world's epicentre for coronavirus deaths, while Singapore has announced plans to fine people who breach social distancing rules.

"I don't want Australians to see our numbers tracking very well compared to what is being experienced elsewhere in the world and think: 'Why are we being locked up inside?'" Mr McCormack said on Sky News. "This is not going to take weeks, this is going to take potentially months."

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the government will continue to take medical advice about when to ease restrictions, noting it has repeatedly warned that they may be in place for six months.

"I think the Australian people are prepared for restrictions for as long as it takes," he told the Insiders programme on the Australian Broadcasting Corp. "It's very dangerous and unrealistic to move ahead of the medical advice."

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