George Russell in Hong Kong
Australia is well on its way to reopening its economy despite a brutal second wave of coronavirus concentrating in Victoria, its second largest state, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said over the weekend.
Victoria recorded just 14 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours on Sunday, the lowest daily value in more than three months. State health chief Brett Sutton said Victoria was on her way home to end a strict lockdown.
14 is a very good number. Home stretch! https://t.co/OCStF3jwJS
— Chief Health Officer, Victoria (@VictorianCHO) September 19, 2020
However, the state, with 25 percent of the country’s population, is responsible for 761 deaths, more than 85 percent of the national total.
On Sunday, Morrison welcomed the latest national unemployment data, which showed the rate unexpectedly fell from a high of 7.5 percent in July to 6.8 percent in August.
He said it is difficult to predict whether unemployment will continue to fall.
“The numbers released this week were pleasant encouragement to improve, but for those out of work this is no comfort,” he told state broadcaster ABC’s insider Program.
Mr Morrison said the unemployment data shows Australia is on track to rebuild its coronavirus-ravaged economy, which fell into recession for the first time in nearly three decades.
The apparent ease of the pandemic will mean Australia would tighten its eligibility rules on JobSeeker, the unemployment insurance plan the government is hoping to downsize. More than 1 million Australians who depend on payment are required to provide evidence that they are applying for eight jobs per month.
On Friday, Morrison compared the 12.2 percent decline in June gross domestic product in New Zealand that resulted in a tough lockdown to the 7 percent decrease in Australia, where more relaxed measures and multiple protests against the lockdown were shown.
New Zealand officials point out there have been 1,800 coronavirus cases and 25 deaths in 5 million people, while Australia recorded 26,882 cases and 884 deaths in 25 million people.