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PM pushing to redefine hot spots, have borders open by Christmas

Politics

States and territories have been urged to endorse a new definition of coronavirus hotspots as the Federal Government turns the screws on border closures.

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Friday’s national cabinet meeting looms as a major showdown on interstate travel restrictions with progress hinging on the advice of an expert medical panel.

Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham called on premiers and chief ministers to embrace an evidence-based hotspot approach, to guide restarting travel while keeping communities safe.

“We have many, many thousands of jobs being lost across our travel and tourism industries at present,” he told the ABC.

“We will only see more of them lost if borders are kept in place in an arbitrary manner, rather than embracing evidence and using an evidence-based hotspots approach.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has signalled the Federal Government would go it alone on the new definition if the states did not sign up.

He has floated the Danish traffic light hotspot system, which uses yellow to highlight open borders with cases fewer than 20 for every 100,000 residents in an area.

The orange alert level signals quarantine is needed when case rates exceed 30 per 100,000 people, while a red light bans travel when infection spikes occur.

Morrison wants to see most state border restrictions loosened by Christmas.

Victoria is beginning to get its deadly second wave of infections under control, with 73 new cases on Monday – the lowest daily increase since early July.

The state also recorded another 41 deaths, but only eight had occurred in the past 24 hours.

The remaining 33 were added to the tally after being reported to the state’s health department.

The national coronavirus death toll now stands at 652.

There were 829 new coronavirus cases in Australia over the past seven days compared to 1500 the week before.

National Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly, who is leading the work on the hotspot definition, is positive about the falling new case numbers.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has pledged an extra $563 million to help the aged care sector as it continues to face scrutiny over the handling of outbreaks in nursing homes.

Queensland is setting up a unit to deal with interstate residents needing to access specialist healthcare in the state after sustained criticism on the issue.

The June quarter national accounts are due on Wednesday, which will confirm the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Australian economy is expected to shrink by about six per cent, the biggest hit since the late 1950s.

-AAP

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