Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has defended Scott Morrison and said the PM spent the weekend drafting a plan for Victoria after he copped backlash for attending Saturday’s football game between his beloved Cronulla Sharks.
The PM’s wife, Jenny, along with his daughters, will holiday during the school break on the outskirts of Sydney this week but Mr Morrison would not be on formal leave. He is expected to return to Canberra later in the week.
“Given the changing critical situation we have in Victoria, I will not be joining them for that full-time,” Mr Morrison said on Friday.
“As a dad, I will take some time, but at the same time I can assure you we will remain absolutely focused on things we need to focus on next week.”
But when he was spotted at the Sharks game as authorities dealt with containing Victoria’s virus-hit suburbs, Mr Morrison was criticised for “frolicking at the footy”.
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On Sunday night, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told Sky News the PM’s appearance at the football adhered to social distancing restrictions and discussed plans to tackle Victoria’s coronavirus rise.
“In terms of around the country it’s appropriate for people to go about new activities and new behaviours, we’re encouraging that,” Mr Hunt said of the Prime Minister’s appearance at the football.
“He was demonstrating exactly what we’re encouraging in an appropriate way.”
It came just hours after Australia’s deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth issued a stern reminder to anyone becoming complacent about the importance of social distancing, warning the nation’s death toll will rise if people slip back into old habits.
Mr Hunt said he had been working throughout the weekend with the PM to draft a plan for the Commonwealth to offer additional support for Victoria to help the state deal with the surge in infections.
The PM had “worked right through yesterday (Saturday) … on a new level of support for Victoria, over and above every thing that we’ve done”, Mr Hunt said.
“I know because I was working with him. I’ve been working with him throughout today, so this fellow never stops.
“He is one of the reasons, perhaps the fundamental reasons, that we are where we are.
“I have never seen any body work harder in my life and more effectively in protecting a country.”
Mr Hunt did not give detail or outline what support that would be but the government has already deployed more than a thousand Australian Defence Force personnel in Melbourne.
It’s understood that 850 of those will be involved with hotel quarantine, as over 30 cases linked to system have sparked concerns over physical distancing.
Another 200 ADF members will be involved in logistic and medical support.
The ADF members are expected to stay in Victoria until at least the end of July.
At Sunday’s Victoria coronavirus media briefing, where premier Daniel Andrews reported 273 new cases of the virus, he brushed off questions about Mr Morrison’s decisions to take time off, and to attend the football.
The Premier said he had “better things to worry about”.
Victoria recorded 273 new cases of coronavirus and one death on Sunday, as authorities warn police will no longer issue warnings to people found doing the wrong thing.
A man aged in his 70s is the latest fatality during the state’s second wave.
At least 57 Victorians are in hospital with 16 of those in intensive care.
The new cases bring the state’s total to 3799 cases, with almost 1500 of those active.
Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton said there were at least 145 cases linked to public housing towers in North Melbourne and Flemington, and a further 22 in Carlton.
It comes as a cluster of eight coronavirus cases has been recorded among staff at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.
The hospital says the cluster includes five cases acquired through community transmission and three cases detected through contact tracing.
Mr Andrews again put Victorians on notice, reminding them to only go out when for the purposes that are lawful – shopping for essentials, work or study, care or medical treatment, exercise.
“This is a dangerous time, this is a very challenging time,” Mr Andrews said.
“Victorian police have issued more warnings than fines last time. That won‘t be the case this time.
“If you are out and about doing the wrong thing, then Victoria Police will have no choice but to issue you with a fine.”