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"We are in a war against the virus." Prime Minister Scott Morrison's sobering 60 Minutes interview.

On Sunday night, Prime Minister Scott Morrison appeared on 60 Minutes to discuss the coronavirus pandemic.

The virus, which as of Sunday has claimed the lives of seven Australians and infected 1286 nationwide, has caused disarray and anxiety for many.

As we all know, certain people have been asked to work from home to avoid the risk of community transmission, Australians returning from overseas have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival and Australian states are closing their borders.

There are fears Australia’s incidence of coronavirus is set to match China or Italy’s steep incline of cases; so why aren’t we in total lockdown? Scott Morrison told 60 Minutes‘ Tara Brown that “our situation here in Australia is different”.

“Our health system is different. The age of our population is different. And the way life is lived is very different,” said Morrison.

On top of that, our rate of testing is one of the highest in the world. We have had 90 per cent negative test rate. That’s one of the highest.”

Italy has been shut down, with just the bare essential stores remaining open (supermarkets, pharmacies), and many have called for the same to happen in Australia, with the hashtag #lockusdown trending in Australia last week and tonight, #stayhomesavelives.

Indeed, some Australians understand the health crisis at hand, however, images of a crowded Bondi Beach on Saturday, March 21, suggest not everyone feels as strongly about the idea of self-isolating or self-distancing.

Coronavirus Australia update Bondi
Beachgoers at Bondi Beach NOT practising social-distancing. Image: Getty.
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The crowded beach - which was closed down - shows a total lack of regard for public health. Several backpackers on the beach were found to have coronavirus.

Of the incident, Morrison told Brown, "What we saw at Bondi Beach was not OK. It was not even remotely OK, and that sent a message to the premiers, a message to the chief ministers and me, that not enough Australians are taking that seriously. I said today we are in a war against the virus, and all Australians are enlisted to do the right thing.

"We can give instruction, we can enforce them. People are told to self-isolate for 14 days when they come back. People are told to keep 1.5m distance. Venues are told to have an average of 4m for each person. This needs to be observed, otherwise, very Draconian measures need to be enforced."

Some argue that nipping the situation in the bud and following China and South Korea's 'Endgame C' plan (which involves everyone self-isolating in their homes - with police enforcing this, if necessary - and sealing the borders until there are no more COVID-19 infections prevalent), might work for Australia. We would effectively be 'stopping then restarting' the country, however, this would involve closing all schools.

Although certain parts of the country are already planning to close schools, Morrison urges states to consider the consequences of this.

On Sunday afternoon, Victoria Premier Dan Andrews and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced that they would be pushing for schools to close, with Andrews stating that Victorian students will have their last day of school on Monday, March 23, and begin their school holidays early.

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Asked by Brown whether he interpreted Andrews' and Berejiklian's decision as a sign he is not doing enough, Morrison said: "We have to understand that this issue is moving extremely fast, and what we have always said is that as the information changes, there will be a need to take measures locally. And then I would expect those states to take those measures.

"Only a few days ago all points — states were resolute on keeping schools open. Particularly for those parents who are working in critical areas, like the health workforce. It is an active issue which we flagged may be at a point in time where states would have to take that decision. They are just seeking to take that decision to the - together, collectively. The Commonwealth does not run the school system.

"Ultimately, states will make their own decisions. We are a federation. The Commonwealth doesn't make the decisions for them. But it is important that when they do that they are mindful of the impacts and consequences, and particularly for their own health workforce.

While the decision to shut schools down will always be controversial, a topic that isn't so contested is the Prime Minister's decision to help vulnerable Australians who have lost their job due to COVID-19.

Many Australians - particularly those in the travel industry, small business owners and casual workers - are finding the coronavirus is having a large impact on their financial wellbeing, with redundancies imminent and many stores closing due to lack of customers.

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Morrison explained to Brown that his $66 billion stimulus package will "support people if they lose their job, their business."

The package aims to provide "a stronger and more secure safety net for people who will find themselves the first in the firing line, in the blows of this exchange that you will see of the coronavirus and its impact.

"What we can provide certainty of is that if somebody finds himself in a position where they have lost their job, I have doubled the jobseeker payment. If a business needs to get from now to the end of this crisis, which we think is at least six months, we provide up to $100,000 in grants to help them get there.

"That's why we are ensuring people can break open and access their own superannuation safes. These are designed to help. If you are a self-funded retiree, then you are not forced to pull money out in the middle of the bat market. What I cannot do is forecast what is an un-forecastable situation."

Despite the sizable stimulus, Prime Minister Morrison appeared to be under no illusion that tackling the coronavirus pandemic would be easy.

"This will be tough. It will break our hearts, but it will not break our spirit.

"There is an understandable high level of anxiety. We have lost Australians. And we're dealing with one of the most serious situations we have seen, certainly since World War II."

For more information or to watch Scott Morrison's 60 Minutes interview, check out 60 Minutes' website.

Feature image: Channel Nine/60 Minutes.

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