Health minister warns of 'choke points' in coronavirus battle

Australia’s health minister has warned there will be “choke points” as the country eases coronavirus restrictions, while highlighting the biggest risk.

Speaking in Canberra on Monday, Greg Hunt said with greater freedom, which had been enjoyed across the country over the past few days, came a greater need for vigilance.

“We absolutely have to keep our physical distance,” Mr Hunt said.

“So we want to lift the restrictions but the things that we must do to keep us safe – our hygiene, our physical distance and we'd encourage people to download the [COVID-Safe] app.”

Minister for Health Greg Hunt warned Australians to not become complacent as restrictions ease. Source: AAP

He added the biggest risk Australia was facing right now was complacency, although he admitted the public was going “amazingly well”.

“As I've said before we are winning but we have not won and we could easily lose it if we gave up on the things that have kept us safe,” Mr Hunt said.

When asked if Mr Hunt was seeing complacency as Australians enjoy freedoms they did not have just a few weeks ago, the health minister drew on his own experiences.

He explained over the weekend he observed people keeping their distance while out on walks and while he was at the chemist and supermarket he saw people doing their part.

“There will be choke points,” Mr Hunt continued.

“And that's when... we encourage [people] to be absolutely alert because any one of us can save a life and any one of us can inadvertently risk a life.

“Now is the moment where as we have greater freedoms, we need greater vigilance.”

As restrictions begin to ease, questions have arisen about what Australia will do if faced with a second or third wave of the coronavirus.

Commuters and school students return to public transport at Strathfield Train Station in Sydney on Monday. Students return to classroom learning in NSW amid an easing of coronavirus restrictions. Source: AAP

Mr Hunt explained the extreme lockdown measures were to contain and reduce the cases which, as he said, saved lives.

Going forward, if there is an outbreak in a suburban or regional area, or in a facility, there will be “localised rings of containment”.

“It would only be if there was a systemic statewide, outbreak that we would look at reversing,” Mr Hunt explained.

“At this stage our belief is that is highly unlikely.”

There are 501 active cases of coronavirus across the country, only five of which are in intensive care, with the death toll at 102.

More than 6500 of the 7109 people diagnosed with the disease have recovered.

The growth rate of new cases has been under 0.5 per cent for five weeks, while on average, Australia is testing 25,000 people per day.

“The cases we're finding are going down,” Mr Hunt said.

“We're now at 0.6 per cent positivity over all of the tests we've conducted, one of the lowest rates in the world.”

He also boasted Australia has “one of the broadest testing regimes in the world” and pointed out the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has said Australia has “one of the most accurate testing regimes in the world”.

with AAP

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