‘FIRST MOVERS CLUB’: Australia joins elite coronavirus group

Following our continued success in suppressing the coronavirus outbreak, Australia has been invited to join an exclusive group of countries who have managed to curtail COVID-19.

Regularly referred to as the envy of the world by state and federal politicians, Australia has been praised for its quick response to the coronavirus outbreak and is now in a place where it can begin to get its ailing economies back to some level of normality.

The first significant step towards that will likely come from Friday’s highly-anticipated National Cabinet meeting.

Just hours before that crucial meeting with Australia's premiers and chief ministers, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s was invited to a video conference to be part of recently-established group of nations being called the “First Movers COVID Group”.

Pictured is Prime Minister Scot Morrison joining the video call on Thursday night. Source: Scott Morrison
Mr Morrison joining the video call on Thursday night. Source: Scott Morrison

Spearheaded by Austria, other member countries include Denmark, Norway, Greece, the Czech Republic, Israel and Singapore.

And with the second-lowest number of COVID-19 cases in the group, behind Greece, and its pro-active measures in recent weeks including ramped up testing, it’s fair to say Australia is among the most successful in terms of keeping the virus under control.

As advice was freely exchanged, leaders were particularly impressed by the quick uptake of Australia's CovidSAFE app, albeit Mr Morrison’s repeated praise for Singapore after admitting his government had borrowed the idea from them.

Topics included the reopening of schools, how to manage localised outbreaks, the importance of rigorous tracing and testing, and scientific cooperation.

Austria was one of the standout countries in dealing with the virus, with the European nation one of the first to go into lockdown and then reverse the restrictions.

It has so far recorded just over 600 deaths – a far cry from the tens of thousands of deaths in the UK, Italy and Spain.

Australia currently has 97 deaths from the virus.

At the end of the meeting, Mr Morrison thanked Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz for hosting the discussion, in which leaders swapped notes and talked about the need to reopen economies safely.

Pictured is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the club via a virtual discussion.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the group. Source: Scott Morrison

Mr Kurz has been pro-active in organising such an event, and previously said Austria was looking forward to working with other countries to tackle the outbreak.

“We look forward to enhancing our scientific & economic cooperation to increase our resilience,” he said on Twitter on April 24.

The prime minister has been lobbying global leaders to support a motion to go to the World Health Assembly in mid-May calling for an investigation into COVID-19, to enable a better response to future pandemics.

Yet Australia’s vocal stance on the matter has triggered an ugly back-and-forth with Chinese representatives, fuelled by the Chinese ambassador Cheng Jingye threatening his nation would boycott Australian exports and tourism.

The leaders in the group will meet again next week.

With AAP

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