Doctors want commitment to zero infections

Doctors are urging Australia’s political leaders to commit to crushing community transmissions of coronavirus and stop sending mixed messages about restrictions.

As federal and state government squabble over the pace of easing restrictions, medical professionals are urging more caution.

Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid says local and international outbreaks have proven how hard it is to keep infection numbers in check.

Dr Khorshid says even when countries have the virus under control, it can quickly re-emerge when complacency takes hold and governments dismantle restrictions on everyday life.

He said the federal government was working from an optimistic assumption that future outbreaks in Australia would be localised and contained.

The government also assumes a population-wide vaccine will be available by late 2021.

Dr Khorshid said a recent wave of infections in NSW showed how hard it was to contain coronavirus, with the state taking three months to bring the outbreak under control.

He is also concerned Western Australia has dropped most restrictions, having effectively eliminated the virus, and is heavily reliant on closed borders and hotel quarantine.

“We do not think this approach is sustainable in the long term,” Dr Khorshid said.

“While we understand that governments want life to return to normal, this is a risky strategy.”

Dr Khorshid said governments must be more honest with the community about the need for restrictions and stop sending mixed signals that fuel complacency.

He said NSW residents had been told to stay away from crowded beaches and small protest marches.

“At the same time, they are being told that crowds of up to 40,000 at sporting events are safe and that it is time for people to return to Sydney CBD workplaces,” Dr Khorshid said.

“People are struggling to understand these messages or take them seriously.”

State and federal leaders will discuss the road map out of coronavirus restrictions at a national cabinet meeting this Friday.

Until now, they have adopted a strategy of aggressive suppression, rather than total elimination of coronavirus.

The federal treasurer has come out swinging at Daniel Andrews over the cautious pace of easing in coronavirus restrictions in Victoria.

Josh Frydenberg is furious the Victorian premier has not gone further in reopening the state, given the low number of new infections.

He accused Mr Andrews of making it up as he goes and demonstrating a callous indifference towards small business owners.

“The bloody-mindedness is unforgivable,” Mr Frydenberg told reporters.

The premier is growing increasingly frustrated with Mr Frydenberg and other federal ministers demanding a faster reopening.

“It’s all about the politics with this bloke. That’s all he does. He is not a leader, he is just a Liberal,” Mr Andrews told reporters.

As of Monday morning, Melburnians are able to get a haircut, see an allied health professional, renovate their properties and wash their cars.

But retail and hospitality businesses must wait until November 2 to reopen.

Mr Andrews has indicated further restrictions could be lifted earlier than planned if case numbers remain low.

Victoria recorded four more cases and another death on Monday, taking the national toll to 905.

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