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PM under pressure over hot spots when national cabinet resumes talks

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison faces pressure to expand the definition of a coronavirus hotspot to include regional cities.

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National cabinet will meet on Friday – for the first time in a month – to further discuss using hotspots instead of border restrictions to manage movement during the coronavirus pandemic.

The discussion was put on hold because state and territory leaders could not agree on a definition.

Tasmania is set to reopen its borders to every state and territory, expect Victoria and NSW, on October 26.

A decision on NSW will be made a week out from the reopening date.

Tourism Australia is launching a new drive to encourage people to holiday interstate once the domestic borders reopen, in an effort to save countless travel businesses hanging on by a thread.

It has been proposed a city be declared a hotspot if the rolling three-day average is 10 locally acquired COVID-19 cases a day, or over 30 cases in three consecutive days.

The trigger for a rural area would be a rolling three-day average of three locally acquired cases a day, or nine cases over three consecutive days.

Once the threshold is met the public would be notified, extra support provided to the local area to analyse and deal with the outbreak and a review conducted after 14 days.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr will propose a third hotspot definition be adopted, for regional cities such as Canberra, Newcastle, Geelong and the Gold Coast.

“I wouldn’t want a threshold set too high that was problematic or, equally, set at three – that would be one household and that is probably too low,” Barr told AAP.

“We are looking for something in between which I think is a common sense position.”

He said the ACT had shown an area can manage the risk with well-informed health advice and without having a hard border closure.

The ACT has about 70 vehicle border crossings into NSW which would have made border management a massive exercise.

CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall has backed the hotspot concept, coupled with the latest advances in science.

“Together, we hope this suite of solutions from science will break down the barriers between us, and shift focus to dealing with specific virus hotspots so we can get the economy back on track,” he said.

Victoria recorded 12 new coronavirus infections and one more death on Tuesday, taking the national toll to 899.

The 14-day rolling average has increased slightly in metropolitan Melbourne but is stable in regional Victoria.

On Monday, NSW recorded one new case of locally transmitted coronavirus and five more infections among returned overseas travellers in hotel quarantine.

Queensland notched up yet another day of no new infections and there are now just four active cases across the state.

However, health authorities are urging Townsville residents to get tested after traces of the virus were detected in local sewage.

-AAP

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