Morrison and Andrews consider more restrictions to contain Victoria's escalating Covid-19 outbreak

As Australia records its highest number of daily coronavirus cases since the onset of pandemic, PM warns there is ‘no golden ticket’ fix

Scott Morrison and Daniel Andrews will discuss whether further restrictions are necessary to contain the escalating outbreak in Victoria, after Australia recorded the highest number of daily Covid-19 infections since the onset of the pandemic.

Ahead of Thursday night’s discussion, Morrison warned aged care facilities – one of the significant sources of the current outbreak – to use personal protective equipment or risk being marked down on their accreditation.

Morrison’s directive was issued after Victoria confirmed 13 deaths and 723 new cases, and Andrews imposed restrictions on more local government areas, ordering face coverings to be worn across the state. New South Wales also recorded 18 new infections, including six cases from unknown sources, and Queensland a further three.

Speaking to reporters in Canberra, the prime minister declared there were “no golden tickets” out of the pandemic. Morrison said “some days, the virus wins. On other days, we beat it”.

He noted many countries were now battling a second wave, and said the race for a vaccine was critically important. He told reporters he had made the point in recent conversations with other world leaders that there needed to be a global commitment to share a vaccine once it was developed. “Whoever finds it, wherever they are, I think there is a global responsibility to share that far and wide,” the prime minister said.

With new infections persisting, and Australians becoming more anxious about the trajectory of the virus, tensions flared between Morrison and Andrews earlier in the week.

While the leaders are now projecting a more united front, Andrews noted on Thursday the accelerating trend of new infections was being fuelled in part by clusters in aged care – which is a commonwealth responsibility – and by people continuing to work while symptomatic. But Morrison countered that the main concern in the state was growth in untraced community transmission.

Of aged care facilities, Morrison said: “It is only a small number of facilities that I would still say are in the acute stage of the critical list that we have of just over a dozen centres, and stabilisation in many of those other centres has been established – but we are keeping them on a close watching brief.”

The acting chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, told reporters of the 723 new cases in Victoria, 15 were aged care residents and a further 58 were staff members. He said of 5,000 active cases in Victoria, 456 were residents of aged care facilities.

After initially rejecting the need to create a national pandemic leave entitlement to stop workers in precarious employment continuing to work while infectious, on the grounds that people had access to state-based hardship payments, the Morrison government is now mulling the issue because of the outbreak in Victoria.

Acknowledging the grim milestone on Thursday, Labor intensified pressure on the government to deliver a leave entitlement urgently. “Scott Morrison needs to understand the urgency of the introduction of paid pandemic leave – frankly, there is no excuse to delay any longer,” the federal Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, said.

“What we know is that an outbreak, an infection in one place can very easily lead to more infections and we have to, as a nation, be prepared to do whatever is necessary to minimise the risk of infections,” Albanese said.

“What is clear, and has been clear for some time, is that if people have to choose between putting food on the table for their family and having the risk of going to work in order to earn income and being able to stay at home, then that puts them in a very difficult situation.”

Morrison acknowledged the sustained outbreak in Victoria would delay economic recovery from the health crisis.

Earlier in the day, the Treasury secretary, Steven Kennedy, told a Senate committee he expected three-quarters of Victorian firms would still need the jobseeker wage subsidy after September, and he said economic forecasts released last week were already being overrun by events.

“This shock is far from over,” Kennedy told the committee. “This is obvious to Australians living in Victoria.”

The secretary signalled fiscal policy would be important to managing the economy towards recovery. He said further stimulus would be required to help bring down the high unemployment rate but “the extent of this support is hard to predict”.

Source: the Guardian