Take care with physical distancing on mother's day, deputy chief medical officer says

The deputy chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, is warning people to take care if visiting mums on Mother’s Day, as frictions emerge over the lockdown in Victoria.

In some states, authorities are allowing people to pay family visits on Sunday as coronavirus pandemic restrictions are eased, but Kelly has restated warnings that people over 70 and with existing chronic diseases are at high risk from coronavirus.

“If you are feeling sick yourself, do not go and visit your mum. Please don’t,” Kelly told reporters in Canberra on Saturday.

“If you are feeling well and you really want to see your mum, I’m sure it is fine. But for elderly mums just be a little bit cautious and probably keep that 1.5-metre distance for now. I know it is hard and we all want to cuddle our mums on Mother’s Day.”

Kelly said new Covid-19 cases remain low with just 16 reported since Friday, taking the total to 6,929.

The number of deaths remained at 97 after a reported death at Sydney’s Newmarch House aged care facility was found to be unrelated to Covid-19.

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, on Friday announced a three-stage plan to lift restrictions across Australia, with the backing of the national cabinet, although it will be up to individual states and territories when they are implemented.

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Victoria and New South Wales are not rushing into lifting restrictions, while other jurisdictions are moving more promptly on stage one.

Even so, the federal health minister, Greg Hunt, insists the states and territories are moving in “one direction” on easing restrictions.

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But frictions again emerged between federal Liberal MPs and the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, over his handling of the Covid-19 crisis.

The federal Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, said it was appropriate for the state and territories to implement the stages when they believe it is appropriate.

“I don’t think anyone wants to see these restrictions imposed for one day longer than is necessary, but they also don’t want to see the health advice of the respective state authorities ignored,” Albanese told reporters in Queanbeyan, NSW.

The federal Liberal backbencher Tim Wilson agreed, but said Andrews had to explain why other states are allowing people to visit their mums on Mother’s Day and send their children to school, but Victorians can’t.

“There is actually now a narrative that’s building in parts of Victoria where people are increasingly concerned that he’s probably enjoying the clampdown too much in terms of the authority and power it’s given him, and he’s not as enthusiastic to roll it back,” the Victorian MP told the ABC.

Albanese described Wilson’s comments as “childish” given Australians have died during a crisis that has left a million people unemployed.

“Quite frankly Tim Wilson needs to … think before he speaks,” he said.

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A week earlier, the education minister, Dan Tehan, also a Victorian, said Andrews had failed in his leadership, before later withdrawing the comments.

But Hunt insists the states and territories are working as one through the national cabinet and all had agreed to the three-stage roadmap.

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“One country, one direction, different speeds, but all heading towards the common goal of keeping Australians safe but getting Australians back to work,” the minister told reporters in Melbourne.


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