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PM slams suggestion of nationwide lockdown as 'reckless'

Scott Morrison says it would be “reckless” to implement a nationwide lockdown as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to escalate.

In contrast to several countries across Europe, Mr Morrison again on Wednesday refuted claims the nation would benefit from a lockdown which would see all non-essential businesses close.

When pressed by a reporter that the current message on restrictions was unclear and a lockdown would ease the public’s concerns, the prime minister dismissed such action.

“You're suggesting that I should close down businesses where there's no medical advice that I should?” he asked.

“I don't understand why you would cause that harm to a business and their workers and livelihoods for the sake of message convenience.

“I think that that would be quite reckless.”

He insisted the federal government was “moving as quickly as we can” in their response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Scott Morrison addressing the media on Wednesday. Source: Sky News
Scott Morrison addressing the media on Wednesday. Source: Sky News

“There are going to be many more [challenges] and some of them haven’t revealed themselves yet,” he warned.

Mr Morrison revealed more than 160,000 coronavirus tests have been performed in Australia.

Elective surgeries cut during virus crisis

Mr Morrison also announced all elective surgery other than the most urgent procedures will be put on hold to free up capacity in hospitals dealing with coronavirus.

State and federal leaders have agreed to indefinitely suspend all category three and most category two surgeries from midnight.

The cancellations will apply to both public and private hospitals.

The move would also help free up resources needed by healthcare staff, the prime minister told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

"This will allow the preservation of resources like personal protective equipment and health services to prepare for their role in the COVID-19 outbreak," Scott Morrison said.

Commission set up to navigate virus crisis

A new commissioner will also advise Australian governments on what should be done to tackle the social and economic effects of coronavirus.

Sweeping closures of businesses and a clampdown on travel have led to tens of thousands of jobs losses, with at least 800,000 more expected.

"That commission's job put simply is to solve problems," Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

The commission will help private sector companies and organisations work more closely, and tie into the efforts of the public sector.

A woman walking in front of a nearly deserted Sydney Opera House. Source: AAP
A woman walking in front of a nearly deserted Sydney Opera House. Source: AAP

"It's about better coordinating the efforts that are happening within the public sector ," he said.

Neville Power, who runs Perth Airport and used to head up Fortescue Metals, will head up the commission which will also help governments navigate the mental health impacts on sacked workers and people confined to their homes.

"I think that Australia right now more than anything needs to focus on minimising and mitigating the impact of the coronavirus on our businesses, on our communities, on our people," Mr Power told reporters.

"So my role is going to be looking for those problems and looking for opportunities where we can join businesses together."

The commission will look where there is a workforce that is no longer gainfully employed and where workers are needed, and where equipment can be redeployed.

It will also intervene to protect critical supply chains and utilities.

With AAP

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