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Hotspots a sore point as PM, premiers prepare for showdown over borders

Politics

Introducing a national definition for coronavirus “hotspots” will be very challenging, a top health adviser concedes.

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The issue will be discussed at a meeting of federal and state leaders on Friday, in a bid to provide clarity on when borders should close.

Premiers have used the term to justify border closures, but Australians are none the wiser on what it means.

If states and territories cannot agree on a definition, the Federal Government says it will come up with its own, but still has no power over borders.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth says the issue is difficult.

“It’s certainly very challenging to adopt a national definition of a COVID hotspot, but it may well be something that we need to do,” he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

“Firstly, you need to know why we’re defining a hotspot. Is it about travel across interstate borders? Is it about the public health measures that an individual state is going to introduce in response to one, two, five or 10 cases?

“There are different reasons why you might want to define a hotspot and the reasons why you wanted to find the hotspot affects the definition. And if that sounds a bit like a circular argument, that’s because it is.”

The Morrison Government has hit out at border closures for their economic impact, as well as restrictions on Australians receiving healthcare, travelling for work and seeing family.

The economy shrank by seven per cent in the June quarter, confirming the nation’s first recession in three decades.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the September quarter could be negative as a result of Victoria’s harsh lockdown to stem its virus outbreak.

“The road to recovery will be long, the road to recovery will be hard, the road to recovery will be bumpy,” he said.

A national agriculture code for state border movements will also be discussed at Friday’s national cabinet meeting, after Australia’s expert medical panel rejected a draft version.

It aims to ensure consistency in cross-border movement rules for agriculture workers while also ensuring coronavirus safety.

Coatsworth has also warned Australians to maintain social distancing over the warmer months.

“Treat the summer with as much caution as you’ve treated winter,” he said.

The national coronavirus death toll is now 663 after Victoria recorded six deaths on Wednesday.

The state recorded 90 new cases, slightly more than the previous day.

NSW recorded 17 new cases, with one from an unknown source.

-AAP

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