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"We are on the road back." Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Australia's COVID-19 progress.

“We are on the road back.” Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Australia’s COVID-19 progress.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has provided an update on the current state of COVID-19.

In a press conference on Thursday morning, the Prime Minister announced that Australia is “making good progress” in the four-week process towards a possible lifting of social distancing restrictions.

“We are one week down and we are making good progress,” Morrison said.

“That also involves making good progress on things like testing kits, personal protective equipment, respirator supplies, the status of those and the supply lines are in place and they are strong and that is enabling us, I think, to make a lot of progress,” he added.

“We are on the road back and that is demonstrated by the measures that we already have taken and we are on the way back to a COVID-safe economy as well, which is what we have to achieve.”

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Image: Channel Ten.

The Prime Minister also explained why Australia is not in a rush to lift restrictions.

"Let’s not get complacent while our numbers are good," he said.

"One number that is never good is the fact that 75 Australians have passed away. As sad as that is for those families, let’s not forget that in countries that are smaller than Australia, like Belgium – 6,262 people have died. In Sweden, 1,937 people have died.

"If you look at the fatality rates as a proportion of population, in the United States, it is almost 50 times higher than Australia. In France, it is over 100 times higher than in Australia. In the United Kingdom also, just under 100 times higher. In Germany, it is over 20 times higher. In Switzerland, it is over 60 times higher. Denmark over 20."

The Prime Minister noted that the counties he listed were all "sophisticated, developed countries" with good health systems.

"This can happen in Australia if we are not careful and that is why Australians and our governments have been so careful to balance the needs to get our economy back to a COVID-safe level so it can support people’s incomes and with can return to higher rates of growth into the future," he said.

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Morrison also shared that more than 500,000 welfare applications have been processed in the last few weeks.

"That is more than we do in a year," Morrison said.

Upon opening the press conference, Morrison also paid tribute to the four Victorian police officers who were killed yesterday.

"This is a terrible time, more broadly, but for these families and for the Victorian police family and for police officers all over the country – and I know their families will be feeling the same way – this is just an awful tragedy," the Prime Minister said.

"A terribly dark day for that police force and our thoughts, our prayers, our sympathies are there for all of them, but also our thanks to police officers serving all over the country. It is a dreadful and terrible reminder of the dangers that you face every single day."

Prime Minister brought close to tears.

Scott Morrison has become emotional during a television interview while speaking about the impact of the coronavirus crisis on Australians.

"There have been so many hard things,” Mr Morrison told Sky's Paul Murray Live.

"The one that really tears me up is how many people have had to deal with loved ones who’ve passed away and go through funerals with so few people there."

Only 10 people are allowed to attend a funeral under current restrictions.

WATCH: Morrison on Sky. Post continues after video.

Video by Seven

Fighting back tears, Morrison described the measure as "just horrible," adding that "We need...let's look forward to good days mate. They're going to come."

The Prime Minister also said during the interview he is cautiously optimistic we will be able to wind back certain restrictions sooner rather than later.

"I don’t want to keep a restriction in place a second longer than we have to," he said. "But we can’t get impatient and rush the process."

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Neglect at NSW nursing home amid cluster.

The operator of a western Sydney nursing home where three residents have died amid 42 cases of coronavirus will hold a meeting for residents and concerned family members.

Stories of elderly and disabled people being locked in their rooms for days, and not being assisted or supported, have been coming out of the facility. Residents have reportedly been having falls and being neglected, others weren't getting meals and some were suffering from extreme stress and anxiety.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant has sent in specialist doctors and nurses to the 95-resident Newmarch House in Caddens, with representatives from the Department of Health and the Aged Care Quality Commissioner to also attend.

With 55 staff forced into isolation, the federal government has activated a "surge workforce", including the deployment of an emergency response team, to support the centre's operator Anglicare.

A staff member who worked for six consecutive days with mild symptoms, primarily a sore throat, introduced the virus to the facility, and is said to be "extremely distraught" but physically recovering.

A 92-year-old woman was the latest death at Newmarch House on Tuesday, following the deaths of a 75-year-old man and an 80-year-old woman.

Across the country, 74 Australians have now died, with only four new infections reported in the past 24 hours bringing our total number of infections to more than 6,600.

The current COVID-19 figures.

The average daily rise in cases is now at 0.3 per cent but Australia's Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly says it's no reason to put the brakes on social distancing measures.

"Just because you're slowing down, you don't take the parachute off when you're approaching the landing - you wait until you've landed," he told reporters in Canberra.

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Victoria has fined more than 95 people in the past 24 hours for breaching health measures, including a trio who booked short stay accommodation to "hang out and take drugs."

Ruby Princess doctor questioned.

The doctor on board the Ruby Princess told authorities there was no risk of coronavirus infection on the ill-fated cruise ship when it arrived in Sydney, an inquiry has heard.

The Special Commission of Inquiry into the Ruby Princess heard yesterday that Dr Ilse Von Watzdorf had marked "no" in response to a question on a Maritime Arrivals Reporting System form about whether there was the potential spread of infection or disease from the ship.

Another question on the form about difficulty breathing and persistent coughing symptoms had been left blank as the ship, which has so far been linked to 21 COVID-19 deaths and up to 600 infections, docked in Sydney on March 19.

Ruby Princess doctor
The ship's doctor has been giving evidence via video link. Image: 9News.

When asked by commissioner Bret Walker SC why she responded "no" to the question when 24 passengers had reported high temperatures, Dr Von Watzdorf said she felt "disadvantaged" because she did not have access to the form during questioning.

But she suggested she would not have wanted at the time to convey there were no passengers showing COVID-19 symptoms on board.

Dr Von Watzdorf also told the inquiry's opening day she was surprised the ship was allowed to unload its 2700 passengers before coronavirus test results were in.

"If it was my decision, I would've perhaps waited like the previous time," she said, responding to questions via video link from the ship docked in Port Kembla where she remains with hundreds of crew.

About 57 crew members on Tuesday disembarked the ship and travelled to NSW hotels before being repatriated during the next three days on international charter flights.

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A further 115 crew members from nine countries disembarked on Wednesday.

The Ruby Princess is due to depart national waters by the end of today, after being directed to do so by the NSW Police Commissioner.

China slams Australia's virus questions.

Australia's call for an international probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic has drawn sharp criticism from China, accusing Scott Morrison's government of taking instructions from the United States.

Australia sought support for an investigation into the pandemic outbreak, including the response of the World Health Organisation (WHO), in calls with US President Donald Trump and major powers, but France, Britain and the European Union warned now was the time to fight the virus and not apportion blame.

There are reports that Australia is open to the notion of an entirely new global health response body being established, with sweeping powers to enter a country without invitation to investigate disease outbreaks.

China's Wuhan Coronavirus Spreads To Macau
Morrison has slammed China's reopening of wet markets. Image: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images.

Prime Minister Morrison said on Twitter he had "a very constructive discussion" with Trump on the two nation's responses to COVID-19 and the need to get economies up and running.

"We also talked about the WHO & working together to improve the transparency & effectiveness of the international responses to pandemics," he tweeted.

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On Tuesday China's embassy in Canberra accused Australian lawmakers of acting as the mouthpiece of Trump insisting "they are keen to parrot what those Americans have asserted and simply follow them in staging political attacks on China".

Morrison says it's "unfathomable" that the World Health Organisation has supported the reopening of China's wet markets saying he's "totally puzzled by this decision."

China is so far resisting calls for an independent international investigation.

Aussie response to be scrutinised.

The nation's chief medical officer Brendan Murphy and Department of Health secretary Caroline Edwards will today front the first public hearing of a Senate inquiry into the COVID-19 response.

The inquiry will look at health and economic issues, and will hold hearings twice a week from next week.

The government is also being urged to wait for Apple and Google to release a new contact tracing tool or risk its coronavirus surveillance software being useless.

COVID-TRACE
An app developer is urging the government to wait a few more weeks than is planned to release Covid Trace. Image: Getty.

App developer Quentin Zervaas says the government should hold off for a couple more weeks while the tech giants finish work to ensure iPhones and Android devices can do this kind of tracking. Otherwise, it risks losing public confidence if things go wrong.

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"I think people will be receptive to trying to help but if it doesn't work right and then the government says, 'Oh, hang on, we're going to do this in a few weeks, it'll be a bit better' - I don't think people will be as receptive to it," he said.

More countries easing restrictions.

Spain has plans to begin winding down its coronavirus lockdown in the second half of May, despite 435 new deaths in the past 24 hours.

The country has the world's second most infections, and Europe's highest death toll at over 21,000.

Italy, another hard hit country, has plans to start reopening on May 4.

In America, President Donald Trump has applauded steps by a handful of Republican-led US states to reopen their economies despite 46,000 deaths across the country.

About a dozen states, mostly in the south, are loosening stay-at-home guidelines.

New York seems to be over its peak, with 474 deaths recorded in the last day - the lowest since April 1. It puts the death toll in NYC alone to more than 20,000, with governor Andrew Cuomo not considering any loosening of measures as it's "not time to act stupidly."

- With AAP

Feature image: Sky/Getty.

To protect yourself and the community from COVID-19, keep at least 1.5 metres away from other people, regularly wash your hands and avoid touching your face.

If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website.

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