Rent, child care help tops leaders’ agenda

Relief for home and business rents under immense pressure during the coronavirus pandemic is being thrashed out in a meeting of federal and state leaders.

Childcare regulation is another key agenda item at Friday’s national cabinet meeting which kicked off at 10am.

The federal government announced a $1.6 billion childcare package on Thursday aimed at keeping centres open through the outbreak.

National cabinet is taking a more detailed look at how to protect commercial and residential tenants, as well as landlords, from the economic shockwave.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned strict physical distancing rules could be in place for more than six months.

He urged patience as police and the public make major changes to curb the spread of the virus, which has infected more than one million people globally.

“Give the police a fair go. They’re trying to do something fairly difficult. We can’t expect them to have perfect execution,” Mr Morrison told 2GB radio on Friday.

The prime minister also issued a stern rebuke to 16,000 Australians who travelled overseas despite being told not to.

“We can’t afford that because if people behave like that, then we lose lives,” he said.

Mr Morrison said he was bewildered and frustrated by people’s wilful defiance of the government’s “do not travel” order.

More than 130 Australians aboard cruise ships the Zaandam and the Rotterdam in the US will be allowed to disembark before flying home.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne told the ABC on Friday they should be back in country within 48 hours and would be required to self-isolate.

Four people have died onboard the Zaandam with many showing flu-like symptoms.

Australia’s coronavirus death toll rose to 25 on Friday after a Victorian man in his 80s died in hospital overnight.

More than 5200 cases have been recorded nationally, although health authorities have been encouraged by a fall in infection rates.

The rate of daily growth has fallen to about seven per cent after being as high as 30 per cent last week.

“We’ve been able to get the growth in the virus down a bit, but it still needs to go further,” Mr Morrison said.

“If we don’t do that then obviously the pressures on the health system, the emergency departments, all of that, would get to a very, very serious level.”

Australia is leading the world in testing, with about one per cent of the population screened for the virus.

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