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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been savaged over his decision to still go to the football this weekend despite advising people to avoid non-essential gatherings of 500 people or more.
Following a Council of Australian Governments meeting on Friday, Mr Morrison told media the government was advising against these types of events from Monday and urged Australians to reconsider any travel overseas amid the coronavirus crisis.
However, Mr Morrison made it clear he would still be attending the football on Saturday.
“I do still plan to go to the football on Saturday,” he told reporters.
“This is an arrangement we are putting in place for next week as a precaution. This is an early-stage action that we are undertaking to make sure we get ahead of this.
“I would be going on Saturday because I had previously planned to, and these are measures we are putting in from next week, and there are further measures that will come in over time, I would expect.”
A reporter hit out at Mr Morrison’s decision, questioning whether it was responsible given the government announcement advising against mass gatherings.
“So you are willingly going to a game this weekend which from Monday, you recommend people don’t attend. How is that responsible?” the reporter asked.
Mr Morrison hit back with: “I think you misunderstand the point of what we are doing on Monday.”
“We are not of great concern right now in terms of where those gatherings might be today, but in the weeks ahead, this will change,” he said.
“This is a matter of scaling our response. The fact that I would still be going on Saturday speaks not just to my passion for my beloved Sharks, it might be the last game I get to go to for a long time. That's fine.
“In the future I suspect we might be watching them on television, and that's OK as well. My point is that there is absolute reason for calm and proportionately responding to the challenges that we have here.
“I'm very comfortable about it, my colleagues are very comfortable about it. Governments will make decisions, sports bodies and other organisations will make sensible decisions, but right now there is not that great risk, not that immediate threat. These are things that will be scaled up in the weeks ahead.”
During Mr Morrison’s announcement, Lucy Turnbull – the wife of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull – questioned why the government was waiting until Monday.
“Why Monday? What is wrong [with] today? #bendthecurveNOW,” she tweeted.
Why Monday? What is wrong eith today? #bendthecurveNOW
— Lucy Turnbull AO (@LucyTurnbull_AO) March 13, 2020
A number of other Australians criticised Mr Morrison over his decision to still go to the football this weekend.
“Tell me again about your double standards? How do you get to justify your actions of going to the football which is a ‘non-essential mass gathering’? Oh yes by starting this ban from Monday,” one tweeted.
“The fact that Scott Morrison isn’t even willing to sacrifice attending ONE football game just so recent statement will hold a bit more weight shows what a spineless leader he really is,” another claimed.
Australia’s chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, said he was the one who recommended the government implement the advice to avoid mass gatherings from Monday.
“We are getting ahead of the curve,” he said.
“There is no immediacy about this, but we need to get ahead of the curve and so the recommendation was Monday and the premiers and the prime minister agreed with that.
“I wouldn’t have mattered if they’d made a decision one or two days either side. It was felt that that was a reasonable time to progress.”
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