World

Australia’s leaders squabble over easing coronavirus curbs

SYDNEY: Australia's conservative government clashed with state lawmakers yesterday over how fast to relax social distancing restrictions, as the number of new cases showed a steady decline.

Australia in March created a national Cabinet which includes federal, state and territory leaders to coordinate measures to stop the disease spreading.

The federal government is now struggling to persuade states to relax restrictions in order to get the economy moving, especially after Victoria suffered a second wave of infections last month.

Yesterday, Health Minister Greg Hunt said Victoria - the epicentre of the country's outbreak - should consider lifting a night curfew, just days after the state kept the curfew among other tough measures extended until Sept 28.

SNAPPED BACK

And Queenland's state premier snapped back at Prime Minister Scott Morrison, after he chided the state for refusing to let a woman from a virus-free part of the country attend the funeral of her father.

"To use the tragedy of this personal family is disgusting," Queensland state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told state lawmakers in Brisbane.

"I will not be bullied nor will I be intimidated by the prime minister of this country."

Australia yesterday reported 58 new cases in 24 hours, down on the 76 infections detected on Wednesday.

Victoria accounted for the bulk of the cases, with 51, well down on the more than 700 infections recorded in one day early last month.

Home to one-quarter of Australia's 25 million population, Victoria accounts for about 75 per cent of the country's more than 26,000 Covid-19 cases and 90 per cent of its 788 deaths.

Meanwhile, Tokyo's government yesterday dropped its coronavirus alert by one notch from the highest level as cases continued to drop, opening the path for a loosening of restrictions on night-time activity.

The capital raised the alert to red in July on the advice of experts following a rise in infections.

Tokyo's daily cases have gradually declined since hitting a peak of 472 last month, with another 276 new infections reported yesterday. - REUTERS

WORLD