Australia, NZ say too soon to ease curbs despite coronavirus slowdown, Latest World News - The New Paper

Australia, NZ say too soon to ease curbs despite coronavirus slowdown

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MELBOURNE : Officials in New Zealand and Australia, hailed globally for their early signs of success in combating the spread of the coronavirus, said yesterday it is too soon to start easing social distancing rules or reopening their economies.

The rate of new Covid-19 cases has abated significantly in both countries without straining the capacity of their health systems. New Zealand has enforced a wide-ranging lockdown and Australia is also tightly restricting many activities.

New Zealand recorded its fifth death due to the coronavirus yesterday, but new confirmed cases in the Pacific nation of about five million rose by only 15, a sixth of what was seen earlier this month, bringing the total of cases to 1,064.

According to Australia's Health Ministry, the number of new confirmed cases rose yesterday by 33, the lowest in a month and less than a tenth seen two weeks ago. Australia has now recorded 6,322 cases, with 61 deaths.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said it was too soon to relax restrictions despite the flattening in the curve of cases.

"Now is the time to stay the course, to continue with self-isolation and social distancing," Mr Hunt said in a televised briefing.

"These (measures) are producing real reductions in the rate of growth."

Australia deployed its toughest crackdown yet over the long Easter holiday weekend, with helicopters, police checkpoints and hefty fines used to deter people from breaking a travel ban or breaching public gathering rules.

Australia's chief medical officer Brendan Murphy told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio the government may start making decisions only "in the coming weeks" about what restrictions, if any, can be relaxed.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said a decision on whether to extend the nationwide shutdown and state of national emergency, declared late last month, will be made next Monday.

"Our number of cases may be small, but that doesn't mean we have yet been successful in hunting this virus down," Ms Ardern said. - REUTERS