PM’s warning: ‘It’s still out there’

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned the coronavirus is "still out there" and Australians need to remain on guard despite the relaxation of some restrictions.

During a press conference today, Mr Morrison was asked about his past statements that a six-month shutdown was the only way to squash the virus.

"How did you get that wrong?" one reporter asked.

The PM was also asked whether Treasury was being asked to look into whether the JobKeeper program could be cut off or phased out earlier than September given restrictions were now being eased, as news.com.au reported today.

Mr Morrison said he didn't share the reporter's certainty about the future.

"We still have a long way to go on this. I think it is dangerous, I think, to assert this is all over, as your question suggests," the Prime Minister said.

"We've still got a long way to go. We are just now starting to reopen our economy. We are not fully certain about what the implications of all of that will be and that's why we have to remain on our guard and that's why the states are moving at their own pace to implement the road map that I set out last week.

"And we will come under test again with the protections that we have put in place."

Mr Morrison said Australians "have to remain on their guard".

"The reason that we're opening things up again is not because the virus is beaten," he said.

"The virus is still out there - it hasn't gone anywhere - it is still out there."

While the number of active cases in Australia has fallen to about 700, Mr Morrison said "Australia is still very much at risk".

"The reason we're reopening is we put protections in place, and it will take us some time to reopen our economy and get it back to a point where it can start supporting Australians again.

"We have put in place and bought six months' worth of time. We're only six weeks into that six months.

"We've put the commitment in to support Australians over that period of time. As we need to adjust, based on advice and the strength of the economy and how many people we are getting back to jobs - well these are the things we'll be watching carefully.

"I don't think Australians can be in any doubt that when they needed us most, we were there and we're there for them right here, right now and we will be there for them in the future."

 

A school student wears a surgical mask as he arrives for the first day of face-to-face schooling in Brisbane today. Picture: Dan Peled/AAP
A school student wears a surgical mask as he arrives for the first day of face-to-face schooling in Brisbane today. Picture: Dan Peled/AAP

 

In an exclusive report, news.com.au revealed today that Mr Morrison was considering slashing the $1500 JobKeeper payment or phasing it out faster than expected amid fears it's creating "zombie" companies that don't exist without the wage subsidy.

The current JobKeeper scheme is legislated to end on September 27, but new options under examination include: reducing the $1500 subsidy, targeting it at smaller businesses, or limiting it to particular industries that are hardest hit by COVID restrictions.

Australia's success in flattening the curve of COVID-19 is triggering a major rethink of the most expensive wage subsidy in the nation's history.

On Friday, Mr Morrison outlined a three-stage plan for businesses to end hibernation, which could allow thousands of cafes and restaurants to reopen by June.

After the announcement, states and territories began announcing how they would gradually lift their lockdowns and ease restrictions.



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